The Midterm Elections may be over, but that’s not the end of the story. The votes are all tallied and the winners are ready for the next two years. The losers, meanwhile, roll up their sleeves and get ready for some changes. Today we’re going to look at something else, though: did weather affect the outcome of the midterms? Historically, weather has played a huge role in voter turnout.
Weather and Elections Political scientists and meteorologists don’t often overlap. Normally political scientists are polling, writing and doing research. Meteorologists have weather research, sampling and observation to do. However, every election year the two agree on one phenomenon: weather affects voting habits.
Generally speaking, the worse the weather is on election day, the lower the voter turnout. If the weather is rainy and depressing, the odds are good that less people will get out and vote. Conversely, if it’s sunny and warm, more people show up to the polls. The mechanics of voter turnout are a bit more complex than that, but you get the idea.
What Kinds of People Vote Regularly? Political scientists have found that more “enfranchised” voters are typically older, wealthier and more right-leaning. Left-leaning voters, who tend to be non-white, younger and less affluent, are also less likely to head to the polls. There are a number of factors at play that cause this to be the case. For one thing, younger voters tend to have less flexible job schedules than older voters. As such, if they are working on Election Day, it becomes unlikely that they will vote.
Another reason for this is that younger voters are less likely to have their own transportation. Companies like Uber have been pushing to address this by offering free or reduced-price rides to polling places for voters. The third reason for low voter turnout is a bit harder to address directly. Younger voters, generally speaking, feel as though their votes mean less. This is referred to as “low voter efficacy.”
How Does Weather Affect Midterms? As you might have guessed, weather acts as a magnifying factor in these cases. If someone is already unlikely to hit the polls, the presence of inclement weather adds yet another barrier for them. Historically, bad weather has spelled bad news for Democrats as their core voters are less likely to turn out.
It is worth noting that weather has less impact on midterms. The reason for that is that midterm elections have historically been voted on by more “core” voters. These are the voters that stay engaged in politics even outside of election years. As such, they are much less likely to be driven off by bad weather.
As for This Election… As for this election, it’s hard to say at this point whether the weather was a large part of the results. The heavy rains and thunderstorms on the East Coast may well have stopped a number of voters from appearing. Political scientists will continue to examine the voter turnout records and work with meteorologists to determine how these results relate to the weather. Until then, stay dry out there!