Natural Disasters Support Authoritarian Populism: Evidence From the Brazilian Shrimp Vote

40 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2022

See all articles by Diogo Baerlocher

Diogo Baerlocher

University of South Florida

Renata Caldas

University of South Florida

Francisco Cavalcanti

PUC-Rio

Rodrigo Schneider

Skidmore College

Date Written: October 15, 2022

Abstract

We investigate the effects of extreme weather events on voicing political opposition against authoritarian regimes. We use the Brazilian general elections of 1982 as a case study. At the time, Brazil was under a military dictatorship that promoted local and gubernatorial elections to validate its authoritarian power. This context provides a positive measure of protest coined shrimp vote. Moreover, during the elections, the country's northeastern region was facing a long-lasting drought that started in 1979. Using data from meteorological ground stations to compute a measure of drought severity that takes rainfall and evaporation into account, we estimate the effects of the drought on the voting behavior of individuals in this region. Our findings suggest a negative causal effect of adverse weather shocks on the share of protest votes. Specifically, a one-standard deviation from the historical average water deficit reduces the share of shrimp vote by 2.5%. We also test for heterogeneity among factors such as relief transfers, clientelism, social vulnerability, and economic vulnerability. We only find heterogeneous effects for economic vulnerability. Namely, municipalities whose economy depended less on weather-resistant crops featured stronger declines in protest in response to drought severity.

Keywords: Natural Disasters; Drought; Democracy; Authoritarianism; Economic Development

JEL Classification: D72, H76, Q54

Suggested Citation

Baerlocher, Diogo and de Melo Caldas, Renata and Cavalcanti, Francisco and Schneider, Rodrigo, Natural Disasters Support Authoritarian Populism: Evidence From the Brazilian Shrimp Vote (October 15, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4249006 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4249006

Diogo Baerlocher (Contact Author)

University of South Florida ( email )

Tampa, FL 33620
United States

Renata De Melo Caldas

University of South Florida ( email )

Tampa, FL 33620
United States

Francisco Cavalcanti

PUC-Rio ( email )

Rua Marques de Sao Vicente, 225/206F
Rio de Janeiro, RJ 22453
Brazil

Rodrigo Schneider

Skidmore College ( email )

815 North Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-1632
United States

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