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Retrospection, fairness, and economic shocks: how do voters judge policy responses to natural disasters?

Michael M. Bechtel and Massimo Mannino

Political Science Research and Methods, 2022, vol. 10, issue 2, 260-278

Abstract: Which factors explain voters’ evaluations of policy responses to economic shocks? We explore this question in the context of mass preferences over the distribution of disaster relief and evaluate three fairness-based explanations related to affectedness, need, and political ties. We analyze experimental data from an original survey conducted among American citizens and find that affectedness and need are key drivers of voters’ preferred disaster responses. We then compare these patterns with observed disaster relief distributions (1993–2008). The results suggest that observed relief allocations largely mirror the structure of voter preferences with respect to affectedness and need, but not to political ties. These findings have implications for an ongoing debate over the electoral effects of natural disasters, voters’ retrospective evaluations of incumbent performance, and the extent to which divide-the-dollar politics decisions align with mass preferences.

Date: 2022
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