At least once a day, half of Americans open their phones, tune into the radio, or turn on the TV to check their local weather forecast, a new YouGov poll finds. The poll — which asked Americans about where they get information on the weather, how accurate that information is, and how often they prepare for weather events — finds that many people in the U.S. pay close attention to weather forecasts. And most people say the sources they use to get information on the weather are accurate at predicting it. When looking at their local forecast, Americans are most likely to pay attention to temperature and precipitation, though many also look at humidity, wind speed, and the feels-like temperature. The poll also finds that while most Americans have a good understanding of what it means for there to be a certain percentage chance of rain, roughly half of adults under 30 do not.
How often do Americans look at the weather forecast?
Half of Americans (50%) say they read, watch, or listen to the weather forecast for their local area at least daily, including 20% who say they get it multiple times a day. Just 11% say they get a forecast less often than once a week. Age is closely tied to frequency of getting the weather forecast: One-third of adults under 30 (33%) say they view it at least daily, compared to 85% of people age 65 and older.
Which weather indicators do Americans pay attention to?
Weather radar maps are visual representations of weather data that can provide information on indicators such as precipitation, temperature, and wind speed. About one in three Americans (36%) say they always or usually look at the radar map when viewing the weather forecast; 35% say they sometimes do and 26% say they rarely or never do.
When viewing or listening to their local weather forecast, Americans are most likely to say they pay attention to two indicators: temperature (75%) and precipitation (60%). At least one in three say they pay attention to each of humidity (37%), wind speed and direction (37%), and feels-like temperature (35%). Roughly one in five pay attention to air quality index (22%) and a similar share heed visibility (18%).
Where do Americans get their local weather forecast?
What sources do Americans turn to for the weather forecast? The most common source — used by 53% of people — is weather apps. Slightly fewer (43%) rely on TV weather stations; 34% use weather websites, and 27% use TV weather stations. Americans 45 and older are more likely than younger adults to get the weather forecast from local TV news (55% vs. 29%) and from weather apps (59% vs. 46%); they're less likely to get it from social media (6% vs. 32%).
How accurate do Americans think their weather sources are?
Americans who get the forecast from any of the six sources included in the poll were also asked about the accuracy of those sources. The vast majority of people who rely on each source for information about the weather believe its forecasting is either very or somewhat accurate. The source most likely to be rated "very accurate" by those who use it is TV weather stations, followed by local TV news and weather apps. Social media is viewed as the least accurate source for weather, though most people who rely on it say it is at least somewhat accurate.
This isn't the first YouGov poll to demonstrate how much trust Americans place in TV weather stations: Last year, an Economist/YouGov poll found that The Weather Channel was the most trusted out of 22 broadcast, print, and digital media sources.
Who do Americans think is more reliable when it comes to forecasting the weather: human meteorologists or algorithms? The largest share (37%) say they are equally accurate, although human meteorologists (25%) won out over algorithms (10%) among people who chose one over the other. Nearly one in five American adults under the age of 45 (17%) believe algorithms are more accurate; just 5% of people 45 and older say this.
The two largest government entities tasked with overseeing weather-related issues — the National Oceanic and Aviation Association (NOAA) and its subsidiary the National Weather Service (NWS) — are far more trusted by Americans than most other federal government entities asked about in the past on YouGov surveys. Majorities of Americans — 59% for NOAA and 66% for the NWS — find each of these agencies to be very or somewhat trustworthy. Just 5% and 6%, respectively, find each to be very or somewhat untrustworthy.
How often does the weather affect Americans' daily activities?
One in four Americans (25%) say that information they receive from a weather forecast affects their plans always or most of the time; 49% say it sometimes does and 22% say it rarely or never does. About half of Americans (53%) say that more often than not they prepare for weather events they hear about in the forecast by doing things such as dressing appropriately, bringing an umbrella, or preparing their homes.
The weather is a frequent topic of conversation for many Americans. One in four (24%) say they discuss the weather or weather forecasts at least daily with friends, family members, or other people. Nearly three in four (72%) say they discuss the weather at least once a week. People who view their local forecast more frequently are more likely to say they often talk about the weather.
Do Americans understand precipitation predictions?
As has been noted in the past, there is sometimes confusion around how to properly interpret weather forecasts, particularly in the case of precipitation. Our survey asked Americans how they would interpret "Precipitation: 80%" for tomorrow’s forecast in their area, offering them four possibilities, one of which was correct. Most people — 63% — got it right, selecting the option, "There is an 80% probability that it will rain tomorrow in your area." The next most frequently selected option — "80% of your area will receive rainfall tomorrow" — was chosen by 15%. Younger Americans were less likely to get it right than older Americans: While 88% of people 65 and older chose the correct interpretation, just 41% of adults under 30 did.
— Carl Bialik and Linley Sanders contributed to this article
Methodology: This poll was conducted online on April 14 - 20, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.
Image: Adobe Stock (JanBerounsky)