A third of Michiganders say ‘no thanks’ to political yard signs

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published July 31, 2018

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METRO DETROIT — Ah, election season. 

That special time when our televisions are overtaken with political ads and the lawn gnomes get some controversial company in the front yard.

Political yard signs can help to rally supporters or alienate neighbors, with seemingly no impact in between. Things can get especially shaky in the current political climate, with party opinions as heated as ever.

But perhaps surprisingly, here in Michigan we’re fairly tolerant of yard signs. According to a survey of 3,000 Americans conducted by ShieldCo, a business signage design company, about a third of the country’s residents would be irritated if their neighbor put up a political yard sign. The Mitten State polled at about 29 percent for that question — considerably less than California, which seems to have the biggest issue with the signs, at 49 percent. 

Alysa Diebolt, of Eastpointe, counts herself in the lot that doesn’t mind a little political flair at her home. She already has a few out.

“My husband and I put up yard signs to show our support,” she said. “We are actively involved in our community, so we know that others may look at our yard and either agree or disagree, but they can see where we stand.”

Annette Feldpausch, chair of the Eastside Republican Club, said she only posts a couple of signs on her lawn to advocate for candidates — and even then, she waits until the start of absentee voting, so as to not push the limits of her neighborhood’s tolerance. 

“It’s in the interest of neighborhood aesthetics,” she said. “I try to limit myself to signs for no more than two candidates. I give high priority to displaying yard signs supporting local candidates and issues.”

But even with measured restraint, Feldpausch wonders if the signage is worth the potential headaches.

“Although (the Eastside Republican Club) has taken no official position on yard sign proliferation, we understand how posting multiple signs tends to dilute the advertising value on any one candidate,” she added in an email.

She might be onto something: ShieldCo’s survey revealed that more than 45 percent of respondents don’t believe political yard signs have a significant effect in altering people’s views at the ballot box. 

In fact, instead of having the intended impact, a yard sign might just stir our tumultuous diplomatic landscape. ShieldCo’s survey revealed that nearly 1 in 10 people would actually consider removing their neighbors’ signs if they didn’t agree with the messaging.

It’s for that reason that Catherine Cooper Bauer, of Troy, won’t be taking any chances this season. She said that for years she’s displayed yard signs to promote her favored candidates, but not these days.

“It’s frightening to be involved in showing support that might result in harassment or actual violence,” she said. “Now in this political climate, I am actually fearful. I don’t want retribution based on my support.”

And of course, the choice to add signage to a residential lawn might be decided for the homeowner if the local municipal ordinances or homeowner association bylaws don’t allow for them.

“Yes, I’ve had signs stolen. And in my previous sub they enforced a no-signs rule, which was ridiculous. So I had them in the window on my house. I, therefore, had plenty of ‘evil eye’ moments,’” Bauer said.