Ready When the Big One Comes? Natural Disasters and Mass Support for Preparedness Investment

39 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2019 Last revised: 14 Feb 2021

See all articles by Michael M. Bechtel

Michael M. Bechtel

Washington University in St. Louis

Massimo Mannino

University of St. Gallen

Date Written: November 28, 2019

Abstract

Societies can address collective threats by investing in preparedness (ex ante) or by offering compensation after an adverse event has occurred (ex post). What explains which of these options voters prefer? We investigate this question by studying mass support for long-term disaster preparedness, a type of investment meant to cope with an increasingly destructive and frequent class of events. We explore whether opposition to preparedness investment reflects personal experience and find that neither subjective nor geo-coded measures of disaster exposure predict policy preferences. We then assess whether this finding can be explained by misperceptions about the features of the available policy options. We find that revealing the damage reductions associated with disaster preparedness strongly reduces opposition to long-term investment. These results suggest that opposition to preparing for long-term societal threats may depend more on misperceptions about policy features than on personal experience with realized risks.

Keywords: Policy Myopia, Long-Term Policy Problems, Disaster Policy, Affectedness, Voter Ignorance, Survey Experiment, Preparedness Investment

JEL Classification: C22, H71, H72

Suggested Citation

Bechtel, Michael M. and Mannino, Massimo, Ready When the Big One Comes? Natural Disasters and Mass Support for Preparedness Investment (November 28, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3494976 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3494976

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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