Call the elevator and lift experts: 1-888-634-1717


Cherie Berry former Commissioner of Labor NC

Cherie Berry put her picture in every North Carolina elevator. Here’s how that affected her reelection.

April 14, 2016

It’s hardly surprising when an incumbent uses political advertising to raise his or her reelection prospects. But here’s what is surprising: a claim that advertising in elevators delivered this lift. And yet that’s exactly how North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry may have brought her electoral prospects to new heights.

Berry’s the commissioner of North Carolina’s Department of Labor, which oversees the Elevator and Amusement Device Bureau. The Bureau conducts semiannual inspections of the state’s elevators, escalators and so forth. Berry was first elected labor commissioner in 2000; she won reelection in 2004. And in 2005 she put in place a rule that every elevator in the state must include placards adorned with her — or rather, the labor commissioner’s — picture.

Do Berry’s elevator pictures count as free political advertising?

Those elevator pictures have made Berry a niche celebrity in North Carolina. She’s had several songs written about her. There’s a parody Twitter account with the handle @ElevatorQueen. Berry has reveled in her fame. In fact, her 2012 reelection campaign included a television advertisement in which her elevator picture did the narration.

In an article in the May edition of the journal American Politics Research, my co-author Neil Weinberg and I tested the idea that these picture-adorned placards are a novel form of political advertising and have enabled Berry to ride the ups and downs of electoral politics. Other incumbents have advertised in similar ways — for instance, putting their names on state driver licenses. But Berry’s example includes publicly available data.

Political scientist David Mayhew’s famously defined political advertising as “any effort to disseminate one’s name among constituents in such a fashion as to create a favorable image but in messages having little or no issue content.” If Berry’s pictures fall in this category, improving her name recognition and bringing in more votes, she should get the biggest lift in counties with the highest concentration of elevators.

If so, her votes in these counties should be going up

Berry is a conservative Republican from rural Catawba County who has advocated abolishing the minimum wage. You would expect her vote totals to go down in urban counties like Wake (which contains Raleigh) and Mecklenburg (which includes Charlotte), as well as counties with large universities, like Orange (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and Watauga (Appalachian State) — unless the elevator pictures were to bring her totals up.

Here’s how we tested this and what we found. We used statistical models to compare Berry’s performance at the county level in 2008 and 2012 (the two elections after the installation of the pictures on elevator inspection placards) to her own previous vote percentages, as well as to the average county-level percentage received by other Republicans running for comparable statewide offices, part of the North Carolina Council of State.

And sure enough, elevators brought up Berry’s election results.

2008 results. In 2008, Berry’s net change in vote percentage from her own previous tallies is positively associated with the number of elevators per 1,000 people in a given county.

In other words, Berry’s performance went up most in those counties with a high concentration of elevators.

However, we found that the concentration of elevators in a given county did not predict Berry’s performance compared to other Republicans running for state office in 2008. We use the analogy of a runner who is in the midst of training to reconcile these apparently contradictory results. That runner might improve on her own previous performances, but still not beat the rest of the field.

2012 results. These results aren’t as ambiguous. Once again, Berry brought up her total of the vote in counties with a higher concentration of elevators. But this time, Berry performs better than other Republicans running for statewide offices in counties with a higher concentration of elevators per 1,000 people.AD

What should we take away from this study?

As political scientists have long thought, political advertisements can affect elections — even in the most unorthodox forms. With this kind of advertising, incumbents don’t have to spend campaign funds — but they still come out of the election at a higher floor than when they began.

If they do learn from Berry’s elevator pictures, they may realize that such advertising can help when they try to rise to higher political office. In a May 2013 poll, Berry performed strongest of all Republicans tested against then-Senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) for the U.S. Senate seat Hagan was vacating in 2014. While Berry didn’t run for Senate, her picture in North Carolina elevators continue to bring up her political prospects as she seeks a fifth term as labor commissioner in 2016.

Jacob Smith is a PhD candidate at UNC in Chapel Hill where he studies Congress, elections and public policy.

  • Lifts

    The risk of falling on the stairs is a serious household concern for many people. The installation of a stair lift can allow you to remain in your home safely with renewed peace of mind.

    Read More

    Stair Lifts


    When you need a low-rise residential and commercial vertical lift, the Vertilift is perfect for quickly moving between the first and second floors of your home or business.

    Read More

    Wheelchair Lifts


    The fully-enclosed Vertilift makes it easy to move from floor to floor. It can be installed inside or outside and will be custom built to fit the structure’s specifications.

    Read More

    Fully Enclosed Vertilift

  • Elevators

    The Liftavator is a compact elevator service that quickly transports you between different floors in your home, providing up to 50 vertical feet of elevator service.

    Read More



    Vacuum elevators are the world’s ONLY air driven residential elevators. Available in three models: single passenger, double passenger and triple or wheelchair accessible.

    Read More

    Vacuum Elevators


    With ample room and able to carry up to 750 pounds, this Machine-Room-Free residential model is perfect for transporting heavy materials or groups of people.

    Read More

    Machine Room Free


    Liftavators can meet the same demands as full-sized commercial elevators. These specially designed elevators travel up to 25 vertical feet, perfect for private residences or small office buildings.

    Read More