For the past few months, election signs have gone up nearly everywhere -- in fields, on lawns, in windows, on cars -- but do they actually influence voters or the outcome of a political campaign?
"We know the campaigns affect the outcomes of elections, although the effect is not as big as people believe," said Dr. Russell Renka, a political science professor at Southeast Missouri State University. "And signs are definitely part of a campaign."
Renka said the technique is called retail campaigning, where it promotes one person at a time, such as door-to-door solicitation by a salesman -- or candidates.
"People want to be asked and are flattered by being contacted. Signs are advertisements on behalf of a candidate by its supporters. It helps create a bandwagon effect," Renka explained.
And when people see the names, it helps bring about recall, Renka said.
"So when voters see names on ballots, they'll remember. It's like remembering a particular brand of soap or soft drink," Renka explained.
However, Renka noted the signs help more of the unknown candidates than say President Bush and John Kerry. And signs could possibly bring in 5 percent more votes for someone who had signs out than someone who didn't.
"You want to bank as many yards and locations as possible," Renka said. "It sends a message to the opponent: 'I have the money and means to really advertise and you don't and I'm gonna beat you.'"
Signs aren't just for candidates to display. Both the Democratic and Republican party headquarters in Sikeston have distributed thousands of signs to public supporters of their local, state and national candidates.
"We cannot keep them," said Susie Neal, a volunteer for the Scott County Republican Party Headquarters, about signs. Brenda Stroder, president of the Scott County Democrat Club, also said they've given out many signs and have reordered signs a few times.
Stroder said she thinks signs have become more streamline. "They used to be just cardboard and nailed on stick to put in the ground," Stroder said. "Now they have wires and plastic laminate and this year, they have the little garbage bag-like signs. They're very high-tech -- signs are in a whole new world."
Ted Martin, current employee and former owner of Canedy Signs in Sikeston, has worked in the sign business since 1960, and said most signs today are still screen printed, and of course there are more modern machines to do the printing now.
Some candidates begin ordering their signs as early as nine months prior to the election, Martin noted. Plus many candidates are having people make their designs ahead of time, and sometimes as much as nine months beforehand.
Catchy sign tips include: the shorter the name, the better and of use color, specifically two, Martin advised.
"And if you use a certain color, use it again," Martin suggested. "Repetition. Repetition is the key."
Martin said signs vary in price these days, depending on how big and elaborate they are.
But Renka pointed out cost of using signs is measured not just in dollars, but in labor -- labor of sending volunteers to distribute signs.
"Sign usage is old fashioned pre-electronic media campaigning," said the political science professor. "Yard signs are pretty old and have always served the same purpose: To remember that particular name."