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As Long as We Remember...

July 31, 2008

Changing Political Trends

Chris Cavey

Last weekend my family made a quick road-trip to Swormville, New York, a small hamlet northeast of Buffalo with a really cool looking volunteer fire station. The primary goal was a visit with my brother-in-law; however, some interesting facts about presidential politics were identified along the way.


Just like any other long trip by car, I decided to play a little game to pass the time. Count the bumper stickers. The starting point would be the Maryland Line on Interstate 83, and, in the name of unstatistical polling, a predicted winner would appear by the time we reached the New York boarder.


So, keeping an eagle eye out for the slightest hint of political emblems on vehicles, I journeyed north to Harrisburg. By the York exits, I had a score of one for Sen. John McCain and zero for Sen. Barack Obama. Thirty minutes later at Harrisburg the score was the same! Both candidates added one on Rt. 15 near Angie’s Restaurant. By Sunbury, PA, I was bored and quit.


Didn’t the population of Pennsylvania know there was an election in about 13 weeks? Pennsylvania is a battleground state where both candidates want to win. I know they have active campaigns. Harrisburg is the capital city! What gives?


Believe it or not, the “lawn sign game” in Western New York provided the same results. One lawn sign for Senator Obama, a couple for Senator McCain and a dozen or so well-worn Ron Paul signs. That was the total count for all citizens flying their political colors and thoughts on their yards. Over the entire 435-mile journey, there were more signs warning me to watch out for Amish buggies along the roadside then promoting presidential candidates.


This gave me plenty of time to think. Sens. McCain and Obama are currently in a statistical dead heat in their quest for president of our United States. Currently President George W. Bush has a disapproval rating of 66% and the Democrat-lead Congress has a disapproval rating of 75%.


Only one third of the people like the president and just one quarter of the people like the Congress. Odds are no one likes both! Could it be the majority of people just are plain tired of the entire political spectrum and won’t promote the game further by advertising for either side?


My brother, the statistician, thinks that people are really thinking and talking about issues. He says that the personalities of both candidates are already known and the public is chewing on the issues and stances. I say he hangs around too much with PhD.’s and bank executives!


In 2000, presidential candidates started setting up websites. They advertised themselves, their personalities and thoughts. One other thing happened, they began selling collateral materials, which normally are traditionally given away to anyone who asked.


You could buy lawn signs, bumper stickers, and buttons having them delivered right to your front door, except now at your cost – not theirs.


This trend intensified in the 2004 cycle and now once again with the current cycle. Within another cycle or two, campaigns will do away with free personal paraphernalia and opt to use their campaign dollars only for mass marketing on the Internet and television.


Like all things manufactured, collateral materials are expensive and continue to increase in price. Is the market appeal of a lawn sign equal to that of a radio ad? Is the public exposure of a bumper sticker better than your face on television?


Perhaps this political market trend is a smart business move. Perhaps this is the most effective way to reach the broadest spectrum of citizens.


Or perhaps the loss of a personal touch by a campaign is the reason there were few signs or bumper stickers to be found on a weekend journey.


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