Time zones and election turnout

Another bit of election analysis: When You Don’t Snooze, You Lose: A Natural Experiment on the Effect of Sleep Deprivation on Voter Turnout and Election Outcomes, working paper by John B. Holbein and Jerome P. Schafer.

People just to the east of a time zone boundary sleep 20 minutes less than those on the west side of the time zone boundary. (This is based on the American Time Use Survey.) This depresses voter turnout, which, in a US setting, moves election results to the right. (Anecdote is not data, but this year I voted early one morning in the week before Election Day – we have early voting in Georgia – because I happened to be awake anyway. So at least in my house waking up early drives turnout.) Rain also drives down voter turnout. Perhaps if you really wanted to you could blame the results in Wisconsin on rain this Election Day… but let’s not go down that rabbit hole.

For an illustration of a similar phenomenon, take a look at the Jawbone circadian rhythm map (by Tyler Nolan and Brian Wilt), which shows that people (well, Jawbone fitness tracker owners) on the eastern side of a time zone boundary go to bed later than those on the western side of the same boundary. Interestingly, they don’t see the effect in total amount of time sleeping, which suggests that in their data set people on the eastern side of a time zone boundary also wake up later.

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