Myopic Policymaking, Voter Ignorance, and Preparing for Natural Disasters

38 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2018

See all articles by Michael M. Bechtel

Michael M. Bechtel

Washington University in St. Louis

Massimo Mannino

University of St. Gallen

Date Written: May 1, 2017

Abstract

Myopia in policymaking is often attributed to the short time horizons of politicians who seek reelection. However, policymakers may also be responding to voter ignorance about the economic features of policies that prepare for adverse events instead of reacting after they have happened. We evaluate this argument by studying individual preferences over disaster policy, which is meant to address a destructive and life-threatening, yet increasingly frequent class of events. Evidence from two novel survey experiments suggests that, consistent with the voter ignorance argument, policy effectiveness and costs drive mass support for preparedness investment. These effects are surprisingly stable across a large set of theoretically salient characteristics such as personal affectedness, partisan identification, trust in government, as well as individuals' risk and time preferences. We conclude that a stronger emphasis on the economic features of ex ante policy options can help societies to better address long-term policy problems.

Keywords: Long-Term Policy Problems, Partisan Polarization, Policy Information, Survey Experiment, Disaster Policy, Preparedness Investment

JEL Classification: C22, H71, H72

Suggested Citation

Bechtel, Michael M. and Mannino, Massimo, Myopic Policymaking, Voter Ignorance, and Preparing for Natural Disasters (May 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3262209 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3262209

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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