Rainy Day Republicans

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Further proof that academics have way too much time on their hands: a study from Harvard connecting Fourth of July celebrations to Republican voting patterns.  “We find that days without rain on Fourth of July in childhood have lifelong effects,” Andreas Madestam and David Yanagizawa-Drott wrote in their May 2011 study. “In particular, they shift adult views and behavior in favor of the Republicans and increase later-life political participation.”


“Our estimates are significant: one Fourth of July without rain before age 18 raises the likelihood of identifying as a Republican by 2 percent and voting for the Republican candidate by 4 percent. It also increases voter turnout by 0.9 percent and boosts political campaign contributions by 3 percent.”

The authors fail to note that although the Fourth of July is a national phenomenon, weather is a local one. Moreover, even on rainy days, breaks in the weather can permit parades and even fireworks, as they did on July 4, 2011 in Washington, D. C.

Yet and still, when events are rained out, attendance at them generally drops to zero, making the political distinctions among attendees difficult to ascertain.

Yanagizawa-Drott is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.  Andreas Madestam is Assistant Professor of Economics at Bocconi University.

“In 2010, an estimated 144 million Americans age 18 or older celebrated Fourth of July by attending a barbecue,” the authors of the study write. “Anther 98 million watched the fireworks or went to a community festivity, while more than 28 million saw a parade (National Retail Federation, 2010.)” But how many Harvard faculty are included in these totals? Inquiring minds want to know.

Madestam† and David Yanagizawa-Drott  adopt a clinical approach to events many Americans appreciate intuitively. “A majority of people report displaying American flags, and over 30 percent say they sing patriotic songs,” they write. “Republicans attend Fourth of July to a greater extent and also view the holiday as more important compared to Democrats (Gallup, 2002; AARP, 2006; Rasmussen Reports, 2009, 2010).”


“Children are a particular focus, and adults with children at home are more likely to participate in Fourth of July celebrations than those without (Gallup, 2002; Rasmussen Reports, 2010).”  They go on to really fine-tune  their data.


“One rain-free Fourth of July increases the likelihood of voting for the Republican candidate at age 40 by 1 percentage point, with no effect on the likelihood of voting for the Democratic candidate,” they write. “This is not only due to a shift in political preferences, as Fourth of July increases political participation in general.”


“We show that voter turnout later in life increases by 0.62 percentage points per rain-free day.” They are serious. They even offer an algebraic equation to support their thesis:


“Specifically, to investigate whether Fourth of July affects preferences and behavior, we use OLS to estimate the following specification (1) yi,b,c,t = bRain f reeJuly4i,b,c,t + lc + tb + qt + ds _ t + gXi + #c,i, where yi,b,c,t is the outcome of interest (political party identification, voting behavior, and political participation) for individual i, born in year b, living in county c, and surveyed in election year t.”


What would also be interesting to investigate is the degree to which registered Democrats attend Fourth of July celebrations.


Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org