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Natural Disasters as a Political Variable: The Effect of a Hurricane on an Urban Election*

F. Glenn Abney and Larry B. Hill

American Political Science Review, 1966, vol. 60, issue 4, 974-981

Abstract: Political scientists usually assume that physical environment helps determine political behavior. They would not, for example, expect a homogeneous political culture in a country sharply divided by mountains. Also, extreme variations in physical environment, such as droughts and floods, have been traditionally considered bad omens for governments. However, very little empirical research has been done on the relationship between natural disasters and attitudes toward government for three reasons. First, political activity seems more determined by social environment than physical. Also, since the individual is influenced by a greater number of social factors than physical factors, the former are more accessible for study and comparison. Finally, it is especially difficult to examine the effect of natural disasters, for they are rather uncommon and unpredictable. This research gap is unfortunate, since such catastrophes place great stress upon the social framework and thus test the adaptive capabilities of the political system.

Date: 1966
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