Don’t Snooze On This Study: How Sleep Impacts Turnout

A rested electorate is a motivated electorate – or so concludes a new study by Iowa State University political scientist Robert Urbatsch. According to Urbatsch, the awarding – or withholding – of an extra hour of sleep not only impacts turnout at the macro level, it has a discernable impact on the ideological composition of those who show up to vote.

Published in the March 5, 2014 edition of American Politics Research, Urbatsch’s findings showed increased turnout in years when November elections take place after the conclusion of daylight saving time. Democrats enjoy a slight edge in those races, whereas Republicans enjoy an advantage in elections held prior to the time change.

How much of a bump are we talking about? Using state-level voter turnout data from 1971-2011, Urbatsch concluded that “having an extra hour in the day just before the election again associates with more voting,” by an average of 4.5 percentage points. Data gleaned from the American National Election Study over roughly the same period – from 1972-2008 – also determined that “a clock change made just before the election associates with a higher probability of voting,” this time by 2 percentage points (when controlled for other influencing factors).

Companion research done in Indiana – which until recently had some of its counties on daylight saving time and others on standard time – also revealed “an approximately 2.5 percentage point increase in predicted turnout” when voters had an extra hour of sleep.

Obviously the impact of a good night’s sleep has no bearing whatsoever on absentee ballots and early voting – meaning the modest outcomes observed by Urbatsch are likely to yield diminishing returns in future elections.

Still, it’s clear there is a cause and effect at work – one savvy organizations would be wise to leverage. Count on MRF to explore optimum ways of doing just that as we incorporate these findings into our research.

In the meantime to view Urbatsch’s study for yourself, CLICK HERE.