Spring's not the favorite season nor a time for love

Source: Scripps Howard News Service
Date: March 18, 2003

With apologies to Lord Tennyson, come springtime a young man's fancy does not necessarily "turn lightly to thoughts of love." Or a young woman's, for that matter.

Americans have serious doubts that spring is the season of romance and only a third say it is their favorite time of year, according to a national poll of 1,039 adult residents of the United States conducted by Scripps Howard News Service.

Fertility statisticians confirm the polls findings: conception of children is most likely to occur during the winter and least likely to occur in spring.

"December is actually the most fertile month of the year. This has long been documented," said Jeff Lancashire, spokesman for the National Center for Health Statistics.

Lancashire said researchers agree with the conventional wisdom that men and women, when cooped up during the wintry months, are likely to make love more often. That's why birth rates are highest in August (nine months after December) and lowest in December, which is nine months after March.

For the record, astronomical spring occurs at 8 p.m. EST Thursday when the sun is shinning directly over Earth's equator. Poets and romantic writers for centuries have imbued the season with an importance that might not be supported either by public opinion data or other statistical measures.

The survey asked: "Do you think people really become more romantic during spring, or is that just a myth?" Fifty-two percent have their doubts while 35 percent said they believe romance might truly be in the air in April and May and 13 percent were uncertain.

Men were a tiny-bit more likely than women to ascribe special romantic magic to the season. Older Americans are less likely to assume Tennyson's claim is a myth than are folks under age 45.

The poll also found that spring is not a particularly popular season. Only 33 percent picked the period from March through June when asked: "What is you favorite season of the year?" Summer was also named by 33 percent, fall by 24 percent and winter by 9 percent, with 1 percent undecided.

Women were slightly more likely than men to pick spring as their favorite, but neither gender was particularly enamored of the season.

A majority of young adults picked summer as their favorite, possibly remembering the period fondly as a time of vacation from school. But summer is particularly disliked by people between the ages of 25 and 44, the parenting years when they must scrambled to find babysitters and camps for their children.

The poll found some significant regional differences that seemed connected to the kind of weather each area experiences. Winter was two or even three times more popular in the South and West while summer was especially popular in the frost belt states of the Northeast.

But weathermen do have their favorites.

"If you polled a bunch of meteorologists, you'd find that winter would be their favorite because there is so much happening in terms of storms and extreme kinds of weather," said Mike Halpert, head of forecast operations at the U.S. Climate Prediction Center. "Spring sometimes brings severe weather outbreaks. But summer would be the least popular because there is so little happening. Usually the weather just stays the same: hot and sticky day after day."

The poll was conducted at the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University. Residents of the United States were interviewed by telephone from Jan. 17-30 in a study funded by a grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation.

The poll has an overall 4 percentage point margin of error, although the margin increases when examining attitudes among smaller groups within the survey.