Will Daniel’s re-election chances turn on time change?
Published: October 5, 2008 / Author: Mendoza College
Two days before voters go to the polls to pick Indiana’s next governor, they’ll have to turn back their clocks an hour as daylight saving time comes to an end for the year.
For Gov. Mitch Daniels, who pushed the controversial time change through the legislature during his first year in office, the timing couldn’t be worse.
Though tempers have cooled since 2005, and a growing number of Hoosiers now say the time switch was good for the state, the issue remains potent for many voters and, for at least some, will be a factor in how they cast their ballots.
A recent Indianapolis Star-WTHR (Channel 13) poll found that 36 percent of people who plan to vote think it’s been bad for the state, while 48 percent approve of it.
For Daniels, that’s an improvement from a year ago, when 43 percent thought the time change had been bad for the state, with 44 percent deeming it good.
Those who don’t like the time change are more likely to back Daniels’ opponent, Democrat Jill Long Thompson. The poll found that, of those who think the change was bad for the state, 47 percent are backing Long Thompson for governor, with 35 percent supporting Daniels.
Kay Davidson, a 58-year-old Columbia City woman, said she voted for Daniels four years ago and won’t do so again. ‘Never,’ she vowed. Daylight saving time is one reason why.
Daniels said the change was needed to boost job creation, but Davidson thinks the lack of early morning light hurts her business: making her own lotions and selling them at a local farmers market in the mornings. With the sun coming up later, she said, attendance and sales have been down.
An increasing number of voters, however, say they like having more light in the evenings.
Jeff Wolfert, a 45-year-old Carmel resident, said the change has been good not only for his telecommunications business but his family life. ‘There’s more time after work to do things together,’ he said. But Wolfert is angry about a related issue: that all of Indiana isn’t in the Central time zone.
The fact that so many people remain unhappy that Indiana is divided into two time zones is why Long Thompson has called for a nonbinding referendum on two questions: Should Indiana be on daylight saving time, and which time zone do people prefer?
Daniels said he didn’t necessarily oppose a referendum but also doesn’t think Hoosiers will ever reach consensus on the question. ‘At least one corner of the state will always have to be Central, the Chicago corner. And parts of the state will always have to be Eastern,’ he said. Long Thompson, though, insisted it’s possible, and that the state won’t know until it asks citizens what they want. The lack of a referendum, she said, was one of the biggest problems with Daniels’ push for daylight saving time in the first place. ‘I don’t think any decision should be made without having collected input from around the state,’ Long Thompson said. ‘I think (one time zone) is something we ought to explore.’ Regardless of which time zone Hoosiers find themselves in — and some counties have switched from Eastern to Central and back to Eastern in only two years — for businessmen such as Steve Russell, who built and runs the state’s largest trucking firm, Celadon Group, daylight saving time means more jobs, and therefore more money, in Indiana.
Before the time change, Russell regretted founding his firm in Indiana. Not changing clocks, he said, meant missed meetings and conference calls, and scheduling nightmares.
Because of the change, he’s added 40 more jobs here that he could have put elsewhere in his nationwide firm. And, Russell said, plenty of other companies have done the same. ‘We have become a healthier, more prosperous state because of that (time switch),’ he said. ‘People are working because of that.’ Scott Dorsey, who co-founded and runs the booming e-mail marketing firm ExactTarget, also was unequivocal that the time change was necessary. After all, with a name like ExactTarget, being an hour late wasn’t an option. ‘We support clients all over the world. We provide 24/7 phone support. Not being on daylight saving time was darned confusing for our employees and for our clients,’ said Dorsey, who last week announced the company is adding 300 new jobs here.
Although he may have still added those jobs without the time change, Dorsey said not switching would have been an impediment to growth, ‘something that would be holding us back.’ Others say any economic benefits have come with a price — and even hurt SAT scores.
Jeff Sagarin, a Bloomington math wizard who also does computer sports rankings for USA Today, and John Gaski, a marketing professor at the University of Notre Dame, examined 10 years of data from Indiana high schools from 1996 to 2006, before daylight saving time was adopted statewide.
Their study, expected to released later this month, compared schools in counties that then observed daylight saving time with those that did not, and — after taking into account socioeconomic factors that can affect scores — Sagarin and Gaski found SAT scores were about 16 points lower in areas that switched time. ‘These results can be considered substantively significant, even startling and provocative,’ Sagarin and Gaski wrote.
They attribute the reduced scores to such things as sleep disruption and interruptions in the body’s natural ‘circadian rhythm,’ as students begin school in the dark. ‘Starkly expressed, DST appears to cause brain damage,’ they boldly assert.
A spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Education said it would not comment on a study it had yet to see.
Steve Tokar, director of the master’s of business administration program at the University of Indianapolis, said coming up with a definitive answer on the time change’s impact may be impossible.
But as a businessman and someone who studies business, Tokar thinks being in sync with the rest of the country is a plus.
He also doubts that Indiana would be able to have a single time zone and notes that other states, including Kentucky, long have been split by time zones.
Bruce Jaffee, professor of business economics at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, said he thinks much of the hullabaloo is unwarranted. ‘There was a lot of hype that this was really critical for Indiana’s economy. That was all hype,’ he said. ‘The effect one way or the other will be very slight.’