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Monday, November 3

The Weather and its Impact on Elections

Written by: Brian Neudorff

Candidates from the local races all the way to the national races are making one final push to make their case why they should be elected tomorrow on Election Day. There may be one factor that these candidates have no control over, Mother Nature.

Meteorologist leading up to Election day make a big deal about the weather. Most of the time if there is inclement weather forecasted for Election Day we say that voter turn out could be effected, and typically with bad weather (ex. rain or snow) election turn out is lower. It has also been noted that when weather is bad this tends to help Republicans over their Democratic rival, but why is that?

A 2005 study published in the June 2007 edition of the Journal of Politics concluded that poor weather on Election Day favors the Republican party. The researchers found that for every one inch increase in rain above its Election Day normal, the Republican presidential candidate received approximately an extra 2.5% of the vote.

"Our evidence supports the claim that bad weather lowers voter turnout," the authors write in the study. "Bad weather (rain and snow) significantly decreases the level of voter turnout within a county … and poor weather conditions are positively related to Republican Party vote share in presidential elections."

The study was written by political scientists Brad T. Gomez of the University of Georgia, Thomas G. Hansford of the University of California, Merced, and George A. Krause of the University of Pittsburgh.

The study examined the effect of weather on voter turnout in 14 U.S. presidential elections and determined that Democrats are less likely to vote in inclement weather. Professor Krause says rain is a bigger deterrent for many voters than cold temperatures.

"Many voters are more willing to stand in line on a cold, clear day. That is not the case if it is raining." He adds that many "peripheral voters" (people who are casually interested in politics who don’t feel compelled to vote in every election) tending to vote Democrat are "less dependable" and less likely to turn out on Election Day if the weather is less than ideal.

The reason inclement weather seems to have more of an impact on Democratic voters than Republicans is the demographics of each party. Democratic voters tend to live in large cities and urban areas where they either walk or take public transit to polling stations. A rainy or snowy day might discourage them from standing in long lines at busy polling places.

The study concluded that rain reduced voter turnout by a rate of just under 1 percent per inch, while voter turnout dropped by almost one-half of one percent for each inch of snow.

For more on this study visit the article: Should McCain pray for rain? It looks at some of the past elections and how rain may have help George W. Bush win the 2000 presidential election.

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