GHENT, Belgium — Sweltering heat might affect how you vote on election day, not only causing more people to show up and cast their ballot, a new study finds.
Researchers at Ghent University in Belgium looked at voter data in the U.S. from 1960 to 2016, comparing the highest recorded temperature on that given election day to the one prior.
For every 1.8 degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature from the most recent voting day, voter turnout increased by 1.4 percent, the researchers found. They also noted that significantly more voters turned out in favor of candidates for the party in power when temperatures were warmer.
But more support for the incumbent wasn’t the only interesting trend.
Voters were also noticeably more likely to cast their ballot for a third party (e.g., Greens, Libertarian, etc.) on a hot day.
“Although these effects are rather small compared to the ‘usual suspects’ that predict voting, they might play a role in close races,” says lead researcher Jasper Van Assche in a press release.
In fact, Van Assche argues that the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore might’ve been won by the latter had the hottest temperature have been 1.8 degrees higher that day in November.
To be sure, the researchers accounted for other variables that could have affected their findings, including “the president being available for reappointment, the incumbent president being elected or not, presidential approval ratings, whether the president’s party had a majority in Congress during the two last years, and change in state gross domestic product (GDP), amongst others,” explains Van Assche.
Temperatures were measured in a relative manner, on a state-by-state basis, to account for the variations in climate between regions (e.g., California vs. Alaska).
Future research could look into other quirks of voting behavior, including a more narrow focus on cities and counties.
“There is a large amount of research on voter behavior, but little attention has been paid to the seemingly illogical factors that can influence the way people vote,” says Van Assche. “Future studies could expand our understanding by tapping into smaller levels of analyses (e.g., cities or counties) or by including emotions (such as anger) which might explain some of the effects.”
The study’s findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
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