Some political bromides are actually true. Rain really does help Republicans. Snow does too. A survey of the weather in 3,000 counties on every presidential election day from 1948 to 2000 showed a strong correlation between unusual precipitation and the performance of the Republican presidential candidate. For each inch of rain above the norm, the GOP’s nominee got an extra 2.5 percentage points of the vote; for each corresponding inch of snow, 0.6.
The Republicans, explain Brad T. Gomez, Thomas G. Hansford, and George A. Krause, political scientists at the University of Georgia, University of California, Merced, and the University of Pittsburgh, respectively, have more “core” voters, who tend to turn out like postmen, despite rain, snow, sleet, and hail. According to conventional theories, Democrats draw greater numbers of “peripheral” voters, who are more likely to stay home when it snows or pours.
The weather may have altered Electoral College totals, the authors write, but in most contests between 1948 and 2000, the outcome was so lopsided that it wouldn't have made any difference. In 1960 and 2000, however, sunshine and raindrops may have dictated the outcome. The 1960 election, in which John F. Kennedy defeated Richard M. Nixon by a narrow margin, might have gone the other way if the weather hadn't cooperated. Had parts of the country had rain and snow that November 8, Kennedy could well have been the loser in close contests in Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, and lost the election. Instead, it was clear in New England, the South, and the West Coast, with only light rain and snowflakes in between.
In 2000, unseasonable rain sprinkled some Florida counties on election day, even as the Al Gore campaign struggled with a butterfly ballot and other snafus that cut into their totals. With only 537 votes determining the winner, even the small amounts of rain that fell on crucial precincts may have dampened the political fervor of enough peripheral voters to turn the tide.
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The Source: "The Republicans Should Pray for Rain: Weather, Turnout, and Voting in U. S. Presidential Elections" by Brad T. Gomez, Thomas G. Hansford, and George A. Krause, in The Journal of Politics, August 2007.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Peter Roome