Natural Disasters and Political Engagement: Evidence from the 2010–11 Pakistani Floods

43 Pages Posted: 31 May 2017

See all articles by C. Christine Fair

C. Christine Fair

Georgetown University

Patrick Kuhn

Durham University - School of Government and International Affairs

Neil A. Malhotra

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Jacob Shapiro

Princeton University

Date Written: May 31, 2017

Abstract

How natural disasters affect politics in developing countries is an important question, given the fragility of fledgling democratic institutions in some of these countries as well as likely increased exposure to natural disasters over time due to climate change. Research in sociology and psychology suggests traumatic events can inspire pro-social behavior and therefore might increase political engagement. Research in political science argues that economic resources are critical for political engagement and thus the economic dislocation from disasters may dampen participation. We argue that when the government and civil society response effectively blunts a disaster’s economic impacts, then political engagement may increase as citizens learn about government capacity. Using diverse data from the massive 2010–11 Pakistan floods, we find that Pakistanis in highly flood-affected areas turned out to vote at substantially higher rates three years later than those less exposed. We also provide speculative evidence on the mechanism. The increase in turnout was higher in areas with lower ex ante flood risk, which is consistent with a learning process. These results suggest that natural disasters may not necessarily undermine civil society in emerging developing democracies.

Keywords: Natural disasters, electoral behavior, voter turnout, Pakistan

Suggested Citation

Fair, C. Christine and Kuhn, Patrick and Malhotra, Neil A. and Shapiro, Jacob, Natural Disasters and Political Engagement: Evidence from the 2010–11 Pakistani Floods (May 31, 2017). Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 17-42. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2978047 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2978047

C. Christine Fair

Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

Patrick Kuhn (Contact Author)

Durham University - School of Government and International Affairs ( email )

Durham, DH1 3HP
United Kingdom

Neil A. Malhotra

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Jacob Shapiro

Princeton University ( email )

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
131
rank
213,270
Abstract Views
665
PlumX Metrics