The 2-Degree Difference: Is voter turnout impacted by weather?


(WFFF) — Climate change doesn’t mean just a warming earth, it can also mean extremes in weather conditions including more severe storms, droughts, and extremes in temperatures. With more variability in weather patterns, could we see this directly impact voter turnout in the U.S.?

First, we need to ask: Is voter turnout even impacted by weather conditions? In short, the answer is yes.

A study completed in 2007 by the Journal of Politics examined voter turnout from 1948 to 2000 against the weather records for more than 3,000 counties across the country.

In the end, it concluded that every additional inch of rainfall lowers voter turnout by about 1%. Snowfall has a similar but less significant impact, with voter turnout down by 0.5% for every additional inch of above-average snowfall.

If we take Vermont, for example, Burlington had a high temperature of 51 degrees with a trace of rainfall in the morning hours of the 2008 election. Voter turnout across the state was around 72% counting just in-person voting compared to registered voters in the state. While in 2016, Burlington has a high of 53 degrees but about .45 inches of rainfall. Voter turnout was down 4% compared to 2008 at about 68%.

However, 2020 may be an exception to this theory. With COVID-19 prompting nationwide early voting and a large number of people voting by mail, the weather may not exactly have a huge impact on voter turnout numbers this year compared to past presidential elections.

As we move forward, climate change will continue to allow for extreme weather events to happen on a more frequent scale. This is why you should make your plan to vote early, whether you brave the elements and vote in person or vote early through a mail-in ballot.

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