It's the Weather, Stupid

We’ve written in the past about how weather can have a surprisingly strong effect on things like civil war and riots. (Short story: rioters don’t like getting rained on and droughts can start a war.)

The political scientist Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard has a new paper on the topic in Public Choice (abstract; PDF) called “It’s the Weather, Stupid! Individual Participation in Collective May Day Demonstrations.” The bolding is mine:

“We investigate the possible explanations for variations in aggregate levels of participation in large-scale political demonstrations. A simple public choice inspired model is applied to data derived from the annual May Day demonstrations of the Danish labor movement and socialist parties taking place in Copenhagen in the period 1980–2011. The most important explanatory variables are variations in the weather conditions and consumer confidence, while political and socio-economic conditions exhibit no robust effects. As such accidental or non-political factors may be much more important for collective political action than usually acknowledged and possibly make changes in aggregate levels of political support seem erratic and unpredictable.”

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I wonder if any journalists will start including comments on the weather, so that we'll hear "Turnout was probably affected by the weather" more than we hear "Turnout was probably affected by the political situation".

Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard


Madison Zimmerman

I recently read an article by David Horovitz on how Israel's drought is proclaimed as over. This exerpt puts me in mind of how this may be symbolic of a desire for end to dependency and end to strife?


Is this why the one-two punch of a police raid and winter basically killed off the Occupy movement in NYC? Haven't heard much from them since late '11.

Shane L

Well let's stretch this thinking a bit. I wonder could climate help to shape political trajectories? Here in Ireland and in much of Britain it is notoriously rainy and unpredictable, all year round. Festival-organisers are constantly being thwarted by unexpected rainfall in the middle of summer. Perhaps there are long-term political consequences of this, as potential protesters or rioters cannot rely on tomorrow being a sunny day to engage in their outdoor activities.

Steve Cebalt

Early in my career I was a single-copy (newsstand) sales manager for a newspaper. When weather was good and sales were not, our report would blame the "good weather this week, keeping people outdoors doing other things, buying fewer papers." When weather was horrible, "the inclement weather kept people from leaving thor homes and purchasing newsstand copies." When weather was unremarkable, we were in trouble in our management meeting.