Retrospection, Fairness, and Economic Shocks: How Do Voters Judge Policy Responses to Natural Disasters?

53 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2017 Last revised: 31 Aug 2020

See all articles by Michael M. Bechtel

Michael M. Bechtel

Washington University in St. Louis

Massimo Mannino

University of St. Gallen

Date Written: April 25, 2017

Abstract

Which factors explain voters' evaluations of policy responses to economic shocks? We explore this question in the context of mass preferences over the distribution of disaster relief and evaluate three theoretical arguments related to fairness norms that highlight affectedness, need, and political ties. We analyze experimental data from an original survey conducted among American citizens and find that affectedness and need are important drivers of voters' preferred disaster responses. We then compare these patterns with observed disaster relief distributions (1993-2008). The results suggest that observed relief allocations largely mirror the structure of voter preferences with respect to affectedness and need, but not political ties. These findings have implications for an ongoing debate over the electoral effects of natural disasters, voters' retrospective evaluations of incumbent performance, and the extent to which divide-the-dollar politics decisions align with mass preferences.

Keywords: Retrospective Voting, Voter Competence, Fairness, Distributive Politics, Public Opinion, Conjoint Analysis, Disaster Relief

JEL Classification: C83, C90, D72, H12, H50, H84

Suggested Citation

Bechtel, Michael M. and Mannino, Massimo, Retrospection, Fairness, and Economic Shocks: How Do Voters Judge Policy Responses to Natural Disasters? (April 25, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2943046 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2943046

Michael M. Bechtel (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis ( email )

Campus Box 1063
One Brookings Drive
Saint Louis, MO 63130-4899
United States

Massimo Mannino

University of St. Gallen ( email )

Langgasse 1
St. Gallen, 9008
Switzerland

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