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Flood Exposure and Civic Engagement

- July 31, 2013

From a new paper by Jacob N. ShapiroPatrick M. KuhnC. Christine Fair, and Neil Malhotra:

Leveraging diverse data sources (geospatial measures of flooding, election returns, and an original survey of 13,282 Pakistani households), we show that flood exposure led Pakistanis to have more aggressive attitudes about civic engagement, increased both turnout and vote share for the party in power in 2010, and led to a rejection of militant groups and small particularistic parties. In this case a major natural disaster which created a transient economic shock also led to major changes in citizens’ attitudes and civic engagement. These results call into question the interpretation of a broad set of papers and tie into a rich literature in political science showing that disasters can have complicated political effects that are often quite divorced from their economic impacts.

Earlier I blogged about the potential lasting electoral effects of responses to floods based on evidence from Germany. Here is Dan Hopkins on what we know how Katrina affected U.S. public opinion. Here is John Sides on hurricanes and Josh Tucker discussing research on shark attacks and floods. In all, the evidence quite strongly suggests that natural disasters have political effects beyond the economic shocks that they might cause.