Does the weather affect voter turnout at elections?

As summer begins, people across the UK are gearing up for the general election.

    The long-held belief is that a rainy election day puts people off venturing outdoors and heading to the polling station. If that is the case, then turnout could be poor for the general election this Thursday, with rain and also blustery winds in the forecast.

    Most of central and northern Great Britain will see rain spreading up from the south throughout the day, with blustery winds making things feel more unpleasant for areas across the west. Cities such as Cardiff, Bristol, and even Birmingham in the Midlands will see some very strong winds throughout the day.

    If the theory that Labour voters are less likely to head out on bad weather days is true, then this will please the Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May more than Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.

    The belief that Labour voters venture out in fewer numbers is borne out by opinion polls which show Conservative voters may be more likely to go out and vote whatever the weather, and a bit of wind and rain won't deter them.

    A dry day with sunshine traditionally means a higher turnout overall, so more Labour voters could be among the total.

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    When people think back to the Labour landslide of 1997, they remember a warm, spring day. Turnout was high that day, at 71 percent.

    There is good reason to believe there will be a link between good weather and good voter turnout, as it is much nicer being out in dry, sunny weather. But in reality, there is little evidence to show it is true.

    Political commentator Anthony Howard told the BBC that rain in the evening is always thought to be disadvantageous to Labour, because conventional wisdom says that their voters tend to go to the polls between teatime and 10pm.

    "There is probably something in it, because in the older industrial working-class areas, people voted on their way home from work and the middle-class tended to go out in the morning or lunchtime," said Howard.

    "It's probably less relevant these days, but I think there is still a grain of truth in it."

    Back in 1964 it wasn't the weather that was the main concern for Labour's Howard Wilson, but a television show due to be broadcast that night.

    "Howard Wilson went to enormous lengths to get BBC Director General Hugh Green to move Steptoe and Son because he thought, probably wisely, that the 9pm air time would be devastating for Labour," said Howard.

    Howard Wilson won that election.

    TV viewing habits have changed greatly since 1964, but the weather is something we cannot change. Let's hope voters pay attention to the forecast and plan accordingly, so we see a high turnout at the polls this Thursday - whatever the weather.  

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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