Does the weather affect election turnout?

Does the weather affect election turnout?
Photo credit: Newshub.

Most New Zealanders will place their vote in dry weather on Saturday, according to NIWA meteorologist Seth Carrier. 

But how much does weather affect voter turnout, and the way people vote?

An academic study from June this year analysed the 2016 US presidential election, and found the warmer states had increased voter turnouts.

Data from presidential elections from 1960 to 2016 was used to analyse the relationship between temperature and voting in each state.

The study analysed both negative and positive repercussions of hot temperatures on political parties; and found hot temperatures increase anger, which might motivate people to vote.

One example found parties emphasising system change are more likely to benefit from '"anger-based" voting.

Another finding suggested those interviewed on sunny days reported the highest levels of satisfaction with democracy, the government and the economy.

Further, other "non-ideological" or "non-rational" factors were found to influence voting outcomes. These include basing votes on facial features and height rather than policies.

It's been commonly thought poor weather detracts people from voting.

But in the UK, some experts say there's no evidence to suggest bad weather stops people from voting.

Stephen Fisher, associate professor of political sociology at Oxford University, told the BBC there was "basically no correlation between the weather and turnout".

What did make a difference was voters being contacted by a party prior to voting.

Mr Fisher's research suggested people are more likely to vote if the election race is close, and if there is a strong difference between the two leading parties.

As an example, he referred to the UK 2001 election where voter turnout was only 59 percent, the lowest since World War Two - a fact he suggests was due to there being little difference perceived between the majority Labour and Conservative parties.

Tony Blair, leader of the Labour Party at the time, won that election and was not seen as overly different from his Conservative counterparts.

Mr Fisher said a lot of people saw New Labour as centrist, "They didn't see much difference ideologically, and it didn't really matter who they voted for".

So are people likely to vote in decent numbers on Saturday?

Turnout at general elections in New Zealand has been gradually declining over the past 30 years, and younger voters traditionally have lower than average turnout.

However, this year the tide has turned with record early voting numbers reported thought the country. 

Early voting opened on September 1, and by the following week more than half a millions Kiwis had voted - more than 20 percent of the total vote in 2014.