Ready When the Big One Comes? Natural Disasters and Mass Support for Preparedness Investment
35 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2019 Last revised: 17 May 2021
Date Written: February 1, 2017
Societies can address collective threats such as natural disasters or pandemics 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 study how personal exposure and policy knowledge affect mass support for long-term disaster preparedness, a type of long-term investment meant to cope with an increasingly destructive and frequent class of events. We first assess whether support for preparedness reflects personal experience and find that neither subjective nor geo-coded measures of disaster exposure predict policy preferences. Second, we explore 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 preparedness strongly reduces opposition to long-term investment. These results suggest that opposition to preparing for collective threats may depend more on informational deficiencies 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: Suggested Citation