NEW YORK (AP) — Snowstorms, hurricanes and tornados are what usually put The Weather Channel’s news team in motion. This November it will mobilize for the election.
The network, which commissioned a study on how many people might be dissuaded from going to the polls by bad weather, said Wednesday it plans to send some of its meteorologists out into the field on Election Day to monitor the weather’s impact on voting.
The study, done in August, found that 25 percent of eligible voters said bad weather would have an impact on their ability or desire to get to the polls on Nov. 6. Among people who said they were undecided between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, 35 percent said weather might make a difference in whether they vote.
Obama’s supporters should be hoping for clear skies: Twenty-eight percent of people who said they plan to vote for Obama said weather would have a significant or moderate impact on their decisions to vote, while 19 percent of Romney supporters said it would.
Paul Walsh, vice president of weather analytics for The Weather Channel, said he was surprised at the number of people who suggested rain or shine could be the deciding factor in whether they vote, particularly among the undecided voters.
“In a close election, that becomes daunting,” Walsh said. “The weather can become a really pivotal thing.”
The Weather Channel will base reporters in swing states on Election Day. It will decide closer to the election whether to pre-empt its regular programming, as is often done during major weather stories, said Jennifer Rigby, the network’s multimedia content director.
Icy road conditions will affect potential voters more than any other condition, the survey said.
Different weather in different locales also will make a difference, as populations more accustomed to hazardous weather conditions will better be able to shake them off, Walsh said.
“If it’s going to snow an inch in Buffalo, that’s like a walk in the park,” Walsh said. “That’s not going to move the needle. But if it snows an inch in New York City, that’s going to change a lot of minds.”
Asked which of the two candidates they’d prefer to be stranded with in a snowstorm, 54 percent of respondents answered Obama. A majority of voters also said that Obama would be better at providing aid to a city following a hurricane.
The telephone survey was conducted by global market research company Ipsos between Aug. 21 and 24, with 1,683 registered voters participating. Its margin of error was 3 percentage points.