Will bad weather have an impact on today’s EU referendum vote?
Amer Ghazzal / Alamy Stock Photo By Jacob Aron As the UK goes to the polls to decide whether to remain in or leave the European Union, parts of London and South-East England are flooded after heavy rainfall last night. Could the bad weather keep some voters at home, and so influence the outcome of the referendum? It’s a commonly held belief that rain can put a dampener on voter turnout, but the evidence is mixed. A study by researchers in the US found that around 2.5 centimetres of rain was correlated with just under a 1 per cent reduction in turnout for presidential elections, while 2.5 cm of snow kept around 0.5 per cent of voters at home. The weather also seemed more likely to keep Democrat voters in particular from turning out, meaning 2.5 cm of rain gave the Republican presidential candidate roughly 2.5 per cent more of the vote, say the researchers. The effect might have been large enough to swing the 1960 and 2000 elections, they add. For elections in the Netherlands, Dutch researchers found similar results, with 2.5 cm of rain correlated to a 1 per cent reduction in turnout. On the flip side, they linked a 10 °C temperature rise on a sunny day to a 1 per cent increase in people going to the polls. Elsewhere in the world, voters seem less bothered by a bit of rain. Swedish researchers studying their national elections found no weather effect on turnout. They suggest the difference could be down to the comparative ease of voting in Sweden compared with the US, or perhaps because Swedes have a higher sense of civic duty, making them willing to brave a storm. The lower variability of rainfall in Sweden may also be a factor, they say. There have been no detailed studies on turnout and the weather in the UK, though leading pollster John Curtice of the University of Strathclyde is sceptical that rain will have an impact. “Nobody has ever shown a link between weather and turnout, though obviously seriously disruptive weather could result in some people failing to make it,” he told The Daily Telegraph this morning. It’s also not clear if we can extrapolate from regular elections in other countries to a seemingly once-in-a-lifetime referendum. People who might not normally bother to choose a five-year government are perhaps more likely to want to have their say in a vote whose impact will be felt for generations, even if they have to put up with a bit of rain on the way to the polling station. But if the weather does have an impact it could be significant. Polling data suggests Leavers are more likely to vote than Remainers, so if the UK wakes up tomorrow to find a majority in favour of Brexit, perhaps the traditional British summer will in part be to blame. More on these topics: