Public Choice

, Volume 155, Issue 3–4, pp 251–271 | Cite as

It’s the weather, stupid! Individual participation in collective May Day demonstrations

  • Peter Kurrild-KlitgaardEmail author


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.


Collective action Demonstrations Free-riding 



An earlier version of the present article was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Public Choice Society, 12th–14th March 2010. I owe thanks to my former research assistants Sebastian Gibson and Henrik Dahl Rasmussen, to Christian Bjørnskov, Catherine Hafer, Kasper M. Hansen, Jacob G. Hariri, Pete Leeson, Peter Nedergaard, Bill Shughart, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions, to the Copenhagen Police Department for assistance with data on numbers of demonstrators, and to John Cappelen and the Danish Meteorological Institute for access to historical weather data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen KDenmark

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