Voting for Nice Weather
November 2, 2016 —
Will we have the kind of weather to get out the vote? It is a commonly heard question in November, especially here in Western New York. We know early November can bring Indian summer or a coating of snow (the average date for the first measurable snowfall in Rochester is November 8th).
Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or Independent, weather is non-partisan event on Election Day. Some folks would say the weather impact is an oversimplified solution when looking at voter turnout. In reality, it’s a variety of factors including the enthusiasm for the particular candidates. This year’s weather may bring greater enthusiasm than for the presidential candidates.
In The Weather Factor (1984), the weather historian David Ludlum says that popular acceptance of the weather-turnout thesis dates to at least the nineteenth century, when New York newspapers provided readers with detailed weather reports for polling places around the state. But is there an equal impact for both parties? This may not be the case.
There is an old adage that “Republicans pray for rain.” This may be based on the belief that depressed voter turnout that is attributable that bad weather benefits their party at the expense of Democrats. Some limited studies have shown that Democrats seem to be more weather-sensitive when compared to Republicans. The impact from inclement weather seems to affect those 65 and older especially in the African-American community. In addition, some limited studies have found that, on average, nearly 20 percent of the vote can be depressed due to the weather conditions on Election Day.
As a meteorologist, my own personal belief is that if we have inclement weather it’s more important to look at the weather leading-up to Election day. My theory is that the days and weeks prior to the Election tend to be more of a conditioning factor for potential voters. Simply said, we can get conditioned to a specific type of weather.
During an extended period of rainy weather, a rainy day may seem like any other day to bring the umbrella to the polling booth or during an unseasonably cold stretch, snowy weather is just another day to put on the boots. So perhaps it is the sudden change in the atmosphere and hence the lack of “conditioning” that can have the greatest impact on voter turnout. Either way, we know that beautiful weather will always win in a landslide.