Politics on Display

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.

About the Authors

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. 

Email: tmakse@fiu.edu

Scott L. Minkoff is Assistant Professor of Political Science at SUNY New Paltz where he studies American local politics and policy. His research focuses on how people and governments are impacted by the spaces that they occupy and emphasizes questions related to public goods provision and inequality. Much of his work involves the use of geographic information systems (GIS), mapping, point pattern analysis, and other tools for spatial analysis.

Email:  minkoffs@newpaltz.edu 

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. 

Email: anand.sokhey@colorado.edu