Tuesday, October 26, 2004

On Travelling, Lawn Signs, Bumper Stickers and Political Advertising on Television

All things considered, I've done a lot of traveling this month and have been to four different states in different parts of the country:

Pennsylvania (I do live here, after all)
Massachusetts (family stuff, Central & Eastern MA, early October)
Florida (SF convention, Orlando & Cocoa Beach, mid-October)
California (tag-along on Jim's business trip, San Jose, Palo Alto, rural areas, late October)

Given the big election next week, it's been interesting to compare how visible politics are from state to state.

Things are crazy here in Pennsylvania. Lots of bumper stickers, lots of yard signs, lots of TV ads. We are, after all, a swing state. Further, Ohio is also a swing state, and West Virginia is close to being a swing state. There are lots of TV commercials for both candidates. The intensity is very high here. In the Pittsburgh area, more Kerry bumper stickers and yard signs, but this is to be expected. One interesting thing - I live in a Republican suburb, where most of the yard signs are overwhelming Republican ones. This year, the yard signs are nearly 40% for Kerry. Also interesting - a number of Republican households have yard signs for all the candidates but Bush. I don't think this is a case of sign-thievery, as these non-Bush Republican yards are often adjacent to Republican yards with a Bush sign.

A weird PS to Pennsylvania - I put a Teresa Heinz Kerry for First Lady bumper sticker on my car about two months ago. On Sunday, October 17, someone ripped half of that bumper sticker off my car, either when my husband was at a local Giant Eagle, or when the car was sitting in our driveway. I responded to this the only way I could - I popped another "Teresa..." bumper sticker in its place!

Massachusetts is mostly going for Kerry - it's a state where he has the "native son" lock. There were a fair number of TV commercials for both candidates on TV earlier in October, but that was probably mostly because many folks up in New Hampshire, which is something of a swing state, watch Boston television. There were lots of Kerry bumper stickers and a few Bush bumper stickers. There were almost no presidential lawn signs, though there were lots of lawn signs for local candidates.

The presidential election was surprisingly quiet in Florida a few weeks back, though that may have changed recently. While there were plenty of TV ads, there were almost no yard signs or bumper stickers. Locals said that due to all of the hurricane chaos, few people bothered with lawn signs. However, I saw a number of yard signs for local races, just no presidential lawn signs. And there were also few bumper stickers, which was particularly weird. (Here's the latest on Republican dirty tricks in the Florida election.)

California was interesting. I got back from California just this evening. On Saturday, we drove up to Palo Alto, and almost every house on the main street had Kerry and local Democratic candidate lawn signs. On Sunday, we drove out to Monterey, which was much more balanced with its lawn signs. On Monday, I drove in the more agricultural/rural areas and the signs were overwhelmingly Bush. On TV, I don't think I saw a single presidential ad (frankly, a welcome change from Pennsylvenia!) but I saw many TV ads about the many propositions Californians regularly vote on.

In short, it's hard to tell how things will wind up next week. Particularly given the way that some people are trying to discourage voting, it's all the more important for all registered voters to get out and vote!

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