WASHINGTON - This year's wild winter has brought everyday life to a halt for people from Boston to Austin, but freezing temperatures are still a good excuse for many Americans to cuddle, according to a new poll.
Given the choice between grabbing an extra blanket or cozying up with someone special when it's cold, most people choose snuggling over a Snuggie, an Associated Press-Weather Underground poll finds.
All the snuggling may be an effort to counterbalance the negative impact most say winter has on their mood. Overall, four in 10 say the weather alters their attitude a good amount or more, with nearly three-quarters saying winter gives them a case of the blues.
And some folks take things a whole lot further: 15 percent of Americans who were cooped up by the weather reported having more sex than usual. (Two-thirds reported no romantic uptick while trapped inside, and 15 percent reported having less sex than usual.)
These tidbits and more about the weather and romance come courtesy of the AP-Weather Underground poll conducted Jan. 21-26, wrapping up just as yet another snowstorm was gearing up to clobber the Northeast.
Michael Loughnane, 58, of Fort Thomas, Ky., is among those who say their love life has been known to pick up when it's cold outside.
And he was among just 8 percent of Americans who reported that winter weather left them feeling sexy. (Summer was the season most often selected.)
Loughnane said there are certain advantages to being bundled up when it's cold: Some people just don't look that great in shorts, after all.
As for the details of his wintertime sex life: "I'll leave it to your imagination," he said.
The poll found that spring gets the most frequent nod from those polled as the best time to fall in love, begin dating someone, meet someone new or get married.
And two-thirds of people find shorts and bathing suits are easier on the eyes than sweaters, scarves and boots.
But it turns out that winter is getting a bad rap as a bad time for romance: Among those in serious, committed relationships but not married, 29 percent said they began dating in winter, 26 percent in spring, 26 percent in fall and 19 percent in the summer.
Whatever their climatic preferences, people are just plain into the weather.
Two-thirds had already checked the weather on the day they were polled, and a quarter reported they check the forecast multiple times in a day.
Even 28-year-old Jessie Oettinger, who says the weather is always nice where she lives in Berkeley, Calif., reports that she checks the weather several times a week - mostly to see if she needs an extra layer for cool mornings.
Oettinger, a college student, said she noticed a big difference in her outlook when she moved to California from rainy Seattle, where she said the weather "makes life pretty depressing."
"I just feel happier," she said.
But then Oettinger clammed up, confessing: "I don't want a bunch of people moving to California just because it's nice here."
Among other findings of the poll:
-People in the Midwest and the Northeast are most likely to get depressed in the winter. Eighty-three percent of Midwesterners and 76 percent of Northeasterners found it a downer.
-A quarter of those surveyed have canceled a date due to the weather, and in the Northeast the figure rises to a third.
-Offered a choice of four seasonal romantic dates, 26 preferred a stroll through a blooming garden, 23 percent each chose a day at the beach or a long hike to look at changing leaves, and just 4 percent chose ice skating and hot chocolate. Another 24 percent stuck with a climate-controlled option: dinner and a movie, thank you.
Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for Weather Underground, an Internet weather site, said the weather attracts a lot of interest because everybody has to deal with its effects, making it an easy conversation-starter and a great equalizer for people.
Masters said he hears all the time about the weather's effects on mood: "It just gets mentally tiring to get endless winter, and on the flip side of that, people's moods are enhanced by beautiful, sunny weather," he said. As for whether romance truly blooms in the spring, Masters says he hasn't seen any scientific data on the subject, but allows that it's worked for him.
The AP-Weather Underground poll on weather and relationships was conducted online by Knowledge Networks of Menlo Park, Calif., Jan. 21-26 among 1,125 randomly chosen adults. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Knowledge Networks first selected respondents randomly using traditional telephone and mail polling methods. People chosen for the study who had no Internet access were given it for free. With a probability basis and coverage of people who otherwise couldn't access the Internet, the Knowledge Networks online surveys are nationally representative.