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The Blue Wave Is Melting

Barack Obama shakes hands with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum

Writing in Quartz today, Olivia Goldhill cites a number of academic studies showing that rainy weather on Election Day benefits Republican candidates. With the whole Eastern half of the United States soaked by thunderstorms, Republican prospects have, well, brightened.

Goldhill observes:

2007 study that examined 14 US presidential elections, found that “rain significantly reduces voter participation by a rate of just less than 1% per inch.” Bad weather drives away more Democrat votes than Republicans to the extent that the elements “may have contributed to two Electoral College outcomes, the 1960 and 2000 presidential elections,” the authors write.

The facts are not in dispute, but the political scientists disagree as to the cause. For example:

A paper published last year in American Politics Research, argues that this isn’t the full story: Not only does rain decrease Democrat votes, that study found, but it also increases Republican support. This 2017 paper, which looked at the same 14 elections as the 2007 study, shows that at least 1% of voters who would vote Democrat without rainfall, switch to a Republican vote when there is rain.

The paper does not definitively explain why rain makes voters more Republican, but offers a compelling theory: Weather has been shown to affect people’s moods, which in turn affects their attitudes to risk. “When voters are virtually indifferent between two candidates, those who feel in an upbeat mood may lean toward the riskier candidate, while those who feel depressed and anxious lean toward the safer candidate,” write the authors. And, as the paper notes, research has shownthat conservative Republicans are more risk-averse than liberal Democrats.

Another study asserts that Democrats are more likely to fetch marginal voters to the polls, which is harder to do in the rain.

I have a simpler theory:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eyIbpKpQj8