Todd Makse | Scott L. Minkoff | Anand E. Sokhey
Political yard signs are one of the most conspicuous features of American political campaigns, yet they have received little attention as a form of political communication or participation. In a climate in which the American public is highly polarized, these symbols are more than simple campaign tools—they are literal markers of partisan identity. As public cues that push into private life, they affect individuals and their neighborhoods, coloring perceptions of social spaces and impacting social networks.
In Politics on Display we answer questions about this familiar feature of electoral politics: Why do people put their preferences out there for the world to see? Do neighborhoods become political battlegrounds? What are the consequences of displaying yard signs in the spaces where we spend most of our time?
We answer these questions with an innovative research design, documenting political life in neighborhoods with complementary data sources: street-level observation of the placement of signs and neighborhood-specific survey research that delves into the attitudes, behavior, and social networks of residents. Integrating these data into a geodatabase that also includes demographic and election data—and supplementing these data with nationally-representative studies—we bring together insights from political communication, political psychology, and political geography. Against a backdrop of today’s political environment of conflict and division, we advance a new understanding of how citizens experience campaigns, of why many still insist on airing their views in public, and of what happens when social spaces become political spaces.
Politics on Display is published by Oxford University Press.
"This book will likely become a staple of graduate education in American politics. Across modes of inquiry, it is thoughtful, careful, and exceptionally creative. It challenges all of us to reconsider what we can learn from the presence and absence of yard signs in understanding the ways in which politics integrate into neighborhoods." - Perspectives on Politics Review (read the whole review here)
"Makse, Minkoff, and Sokhey go a long in helping us understand the citizens who go public with their preferences, as well the implications for those who encounter these very visible displays of political support. This is an important book, not only for the individuals directly involved in sending and receiving political messages, but also for candidates, campaigns, and those who care about the performance of democratic politics."
"Politics on Display offers an in-depth analysis of why some Americans stake out their politics in their front yards. By combining painstakingly collected geocoded locations of yard signs in three communities with surveys and qualitative interviews, Makse, Minkoff, and Sokhey trace the social, temporal, and spatial dynamics of putting politics on display. They provide an authoritative account of the individual and social motivations underlying this unusually visible act of political participation and communication. Given the prevalence and increasing popularity of this form of political expression, this is a book that will intrigue and inform political-behavior scholars as well as candidates and their campaigns."
As an election approaches, it often feels like political yard signs are suddenly everywhere. According to the American National Election Studies, roughly one American in ten typically displays a yard sign for a presidential candidate. Meanwhile, recent stories suggest a degree of merging between offline and online worlds: players in Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing” can now adorn the yard of their island with one of four available Biden-Harris yard signs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are spending more time than ever in our residential spaces, and the signs we choose to display take on new meaning. For political scientists, the central questions that have always emerged in the fall (especially during national election years) are “Why are people doing this?,” and “What do these signs do to our neighborhoods?”
Todd Makse is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Florida International University. His current research interests include professional backgrounds and expertise in state legislative policymaking, citizen perspectives on representation, and the transmission of information in political discussion networks.
Scott L. Minkoff is Associate Professor of Political Science at SUNY New Paltz where he studies the geography of American politics with an emphasis on local government, political boundaries, public policy, public goods, and social behavior. Most of his work involves the use of geographic information systems (GIS), mapping, point pattern analysis, and other spatial statistical methods.
Anand E. Sokhey is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He specializes in American politics, and his work examines the role that social influence plays in vote choice, political participation, and opinion formation. His current work intersects with scholarship on gender, religion and politics, and political psychology, and focuses on how formal and informal political conversations, interpersonal networks, and environments - whether defined in terms of organizations or geographic boundaries - independently and interactively shape behavior.
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