Sunday 20 August 2017

Calm before the election storm: Wind speeds 'can affect voting decisions'

Research suggests weather - specifically wind - can affect election poll outcomes
Research suggests weather - specifically wind - can affect election poll outcomes

Windy weather encourages voters to play safe while a calm day might lead to unexpected behaviour at the ballot box, research suggests.

Psychologists believe blustery conditions provoke a deeply ingrained desire for security which can be reflected in poll outcomes.

Conversely, a lack of breeze is likely to embolden voters so they are willing to try something risky and new.

In a paper published on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) website, the British and US team concluded: "We surprisingly find that weather - specifically, wind - on election day affects voting decisions."

Voters were "influenced not only by the particular stances of political parties, candidates, or campaigns, but also by the environment in which those stances are evaluated and put to a decision".

The researchers included Dr Jochen Menges, a lecturer in organisational behaviour at Cambridge University's Judge Business School

The study analysed 100 years of US elections and the 2016 Brexit and 2014 Scottish independence polls in the UK, as well as referendums in Switzerland.

Its analysis was completed before US President-elect Donald Trump's narrow victory over Hillary Clinton.

The results showed that the effect of wind speed generally accounted for no more than 1% of voting decisions. But in close contests such as the one between Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton, every factor including the wind may be worth watching, said the scientists.

In respect of the Scottish independence and Brexit votes, the team examined weather data on the day that polling stations opened at five different location points for each council area.

Councils with higher average wind speed on polling day were more likely to have a higher proportion of votes for Britain to remain in the EU or for Scotland to remain in the UK.

The authors wrote: "From a rational choice model of political behaviour, voting on a windy or non-windy day should have no effect on election outcomes.

"The results suggest, however, that in elections that feature a choice between prevention and promotion-oriented options, wind speed has consequences for the outcome."

Press Association

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