Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-4hhp2 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-20T04:40:42.843Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Myopic Voters and Natural Disaster Policy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2009

ANDREW HEALY*
Affiliation:
Loyola Marymount University
NEIL MALHOTRA*
Affiliation:
Stanford University
*
Andrew Healy is Assistant Professor of Economics, Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive, University Hall 4229, Los Angeles, CA 90045 (ahealy@lmu.edu).
Neil Malhotra is Assistant Professor of Political Economy, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, 518 Memorial Way, Stanford, CA 94305 (malhotra_neil@gsb.stanford.edu).

Abstract

Do voters effectively hold elected officials accountable for policy decisions? Using data on natural disasters, government spending, and election returns, we show that voters reward the incumbent presidential party for delivering disaster relief spending, but not for investing in disaster preparedness spending. These inconsistencies distort the incentives of public officials, leading the government to underinvest in disaster preparedness, thereby causing substantial public welfare losses. We estimate that $1 spent on preparedness is worth about $15 in terms of the future damage it mitigates. By estimating both the determinants of policy decisions and the consequences of those policies, we provide more complete evidence about citizen competence and government accountability.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2009

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

REFERENCES

Achen, Christopher H., and Bartels, Larry M.. 2004a. “Blind Retrospection: Electoral Responses to Drought, Flu, and Shark Attacks.” Princeton University. Working Paper.Google Scholar
Achen, Christopher H., and Bartels, Larry M.. 2004b. “Musical Chairs: Pocketbook Voting and the Limits of Democratic Accountability.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago.Google Scholar
Achen, Christopher H., and Bartels, Larry M.. 2005. “Partisan Hearts and Gall Bladders: Retrospection and Realignment in the Wake of the Great Depression.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago.Google Scholar
Alesina, Alberto, Londregan, John, and Rosenthal, Howard. 1993. “A Model of the Political Economy of the United States.” American Political Science Review 87: 1233.Google Scholar
Ansolabehere, Stephen, Gerber, Alan, and Snyder, James. 2002. “Equal Votes, Equal Money: Court-Ordered Redistricting and Public Expenditures in the American States.” American Political Science Review 96: 767–77.Google Scholar
Bartels, Larry M. 2008. “The Irrational Electorate.” Wilson Quarterly 32: 4450.Google Scholar
Berry, Christopher R., and Howell, William G.. 2007. “Accountability and Local Elections: Rethinking Retrospective Voting.” Journal of Politics 69: 844–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Besley, Tim, and Burgess, Robin. 2002. “The Political Economy of Government Responsiveness: Theory and Evidence from India.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 117: 1415–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Birkland, Thomas, and Waterman, Sarah. 2008. “Is Federalism the Reason for Policy Failure in Hurricane Katrina?Publius: The Journal of Federalism 38: 692714.Google Scholar
Buchanan, James M., and Tullock, Gordon. 1962. The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
Burby, Raymond J. 2001. “Flood Insurance and Floodplain Management: The U.S. Experience.” Global Environmental Change Part B: Environmental Hazards 3: 111–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Burdeau, Cain. 2008. “New Orleans Repeating Deadly Levee Mistakes.” Associated Press, August 23.Google Scholar
California Attorney General. 2006. “Disaster Preparedness and Flood Preparedness Bond Act of 2006.” Text obtained from the website of the California Secretary of State. http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/vig_06/general_06/pdf/proposition_1e/entire_prop1e.pdf (Accessed October 2008).Google Scholar
California Department of Water Resources. 2005. “Flood Warnings: Responding to the Flood Crisis in California.” January White Paper.Google Scholar
Campbell, Angus, Converse, Philip E., Miller, Warren E., and Stokes, Donald. 1960. The American Voter. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
Caplan, Bryan. 2007. The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Carafano, James J., and Mayer, Matt A.. 2007. “FEMA and Federalism: Washington Is Moving in the Wrong Direction.” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2032.Google Scholar
Chen, Jowei. 2008. “Buying Votes with Public Funds in the US Presidential Election: Are Swing or Core Voters Easier to Buy Off?” Stanford University. Working Paper.Google Scholar
Cohen, Charles, and Werker, Eric. 2008. “The Political Economy of ‘Natural’ Disasters.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 52: 795819.Google Scholar
Congressional Budget Office. 2007. The Federal Government's Spending and Tax Actions in Response to the 2005 Gulf Coast Hurricanes. Washington, DC: Congressional Budget Office.Google Scholar
Converse, Philip E. 1964. “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics.” In Ideology and Discontent, ed. Apter, D.E.. New York: Free Press, 206–61.Google Scholar
Delli Carpini, Michael X., and Keeter, Scott. 1996. What Americans Know About Politics and Why It Matters. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Fair, Ray C. 1978. “The Effect of Economic Events on Votes for President.” Review of Economics and Statistics 40: 159–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ferejohn, John. 1974. Pork Barrel Politics: Rivers and Harbors Legislation, 1947–1968. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Fiorina, Morris P. 1981. Retrospective Voting in American National Elections. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Freeman, Paul, and Kunreuther, Howard. 2003. “Managing Environmental Risk Through Insurance.” International Yearbook of Environmental and Resource Economics, eds. Folmer, Henk and Tietenberg, Tom. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 159–89.Google Scholar
Garrett, Thomas A., and Sobel, Russell S.. 2003. “The Political Economy of FEMA Disaster Payments.” Economic Inquiry 41: 496509.Google Scholar
Gerber, Alan S., and Green, Donald P.. 1998. “Rational Learning and Partisan Attitudes.” American Journal of Political Science 42: 794818.Google Scholar
Gomez, Brad T., and Wilson, J. Matthew. 2006. “Cognitive Heterogeneity and Economic Voting: A Comparative Analysis of Four Democratic Electorates.” American Journal of Political Science 50: 127–45.Google Scholar
Government Accounting Office. 2002. “Hazard Mitigation: Proposed Changes to FEMA's Multihazard Programs Present Challenges.” Report to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs.Google Scholar
Green, Donald P. 1992. “The Price Elasticity of Mass Preferences.” American Political Science Review 86: 128–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grose, Christian R., and Oppenheimer, Bruce I.. 2007. “The Iraq War, Partisanship, and Candidate Attributes: Variations in Partisan Swing in the 2006 U.S. House Elections.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 32: 531–58.Google Scholar
Gwartney, James D., Stroup, Richard L., Sobel, Russell S., and Macpherson, David A.. 2008. Economics: Private and Public Choice. Boston: South-Western College.Google Scholar
Healy, Andrew, and Malhotra, Neil. 2009. “Voter Responses to Grassroots Preparedness Initiatives: The Case of Project Impact.” Loyola Marymount University. Working Paper.Google Scholar
Hibbing, John R., and Alford, John R.. 1981. “The Electoral Impact of Economic Conditions: Who Is Held Responsible?American Journal of Political Science 25: 423–39.Google Scholar
Holdeman, Eric. 2005. “Destroying FEMA.” The Washington Post, August 30.Google Scholar
Imai, Kosuke, and Van Dyk, David A.. 2004. “Causal Inference with General Treatment Regimes: Generalizing the Propensity Score,” Journal of the American Statistical Association 99: 854–66.Google Scholar
Iyengar, Shanto, and Kinder, Donald R.. 1987. News That Matters. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Jordan, Mary. 2006. “Federal Disaster Recovery Programs: Brief Summaries.” Congressional Research Service Report No. RL31734.Google Scholar
Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007. “Giving Voice to the People of New Orleans: The Kaiser Post-Katrina Baseline Survey.” Menlo Park, CA: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.Google Scholar
Kaiser Family Foundation. 2008. “New Orleans Three Years After the Storm: The Second Kaiser Post-Katrina Survey, 2008.” Menlo Park, CA: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.Google Scholar
Karol, David, and Miguel, Edward. 2007. “The Electoral Cost of War: Iraq Casualties and the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election.” Journal of Politics 69: 633–48.Google Scholar
Key, V. O. 1966. The Responsible Electorate: Rationality in Presidential Voting 1936–1960. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
Kinder, Donald R., and Kiewiet, D. Roderick. 1979. “Economic Grievances and Political Behavior: The Role of Personal Discontents and Collective Judgments in Congressional Voting.” American Journal of Political Science 23: 495527.Google Scholar
Kohut, Andrew, Allen, Jodie T., and Keeter, Scott. 2005. “What Was and Wasn't on the Public's Mind and How Opinions Changed During 2005.” Pew Research Center. http://people-press.org/commentary/?analysisid=125 (Accessed August 5, 2009).Google Scholar
Kramer, Gerald, H. 1971. “Short Term Fluctuations in U.S. Voting Behavior, 1896–1964.” American Political Science Review 65: 131–43.Google Scholar
Kuklinski, James H., Quirk, Paul J., Jerit, Jennifer, Schwieder, David, and Rich, Robert F.. 2000. “Misinformation and the Currency of Democratic Citizenship.” Journal of Politics 62: 790816.Google Scholar
Kunreuther, Howard. 1996. “Mitigating Disaster Losses through Insurance.” Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 12: 171–87.Google Scholar
Kunreuther, Howard. 2006. “Disaster Mitigation and Insurance: Learning from Katrina.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 604: 208–27.Google Scholar
Kunreuther, Howard. 2008. “Reducing Losses from Catastrophic Risks through Long-Term Insurance and Mitigation.” Social Research 75 (3): 905–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kunreuther, Howard, and Michel-Kerjan, Erwann. 2009. At War with the Weather. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Lau, Richard R., and Redlawsk, David P.. 2006. How Voters Decide: Information Processing During Election Campaigns. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levitt, Steven, and Snyder, James. 1997. “The Impact of Federal Spending on House Election Outcomes.” Journal of Political Economy 105: 3053.Google Scholar
Lewis-Beck, Michael S. 1988. Economics and Elections: The Major Western Democracies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
Lizzeri, Alessandro, and Persico, Nicola. 2001. “The Provision of Public Goods under Alternative Electoral Incentives.” American Economic Review 91: 225–39.Google Scholar
Lupia, Arthur. 1994. “Shortcuts versus Encyclopedias: Information and Voting Behavior in California Insurance Reform Elections.” American Political Science Review 88: 6376.Google Scholar
Lupia, Arthur, and McCubbins, Matthew D.. 1998. The Democratic Dilemma: Can Citizens Learn What They Need to Know? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Malhotra, Neil, and Kuo, Alexander G.. 2008. “Attributing Blame: The Public's Response to Hurricane Katrina.” Journal of Politics 70: 120–35.Google Scholar
Markus, Gregory B. 1988. “The Impact of Personal and National Economic Conditions on the Presidential Vote: A Pooled Cross-Sectional Analysis,” American Journal of Political Science 32: 137–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Markus, Gregory B. 1992. “The Impact of Personal and National Economic Conditions on Presidential Voting, 1956–1988.” American Journal of Political Science 36: 829–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayhew, David R. 1974. Congress: The Electoral Connection. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
McGillivray, Fiona. 2004. Privileging Industry: The Comparative Politics of Trade and Industrial Policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Miller, Joanne M., and Krosnick, Jon A.. 2000. “News Media Impact on the Ingredients of Presidential Evaluations: Politically Knowledgeable Citizens Are Guided by a Trusted Source.” American Journal of Political Science 44: 295309.Google Scholar
Mullainathan, Sendhil, and Shleifer, Andrei. 2005. “The Market for News.” American Economic Review 95: 1031–53.Google Scholar
Nadeau, Richard, and Lewis-Beck, Michael S.. 2001. “National Economic Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections.” Journal of Politics 63 (1): 159–81.Google Scholar
Nadiri, M. Ishaq, and Prucha, Ingmar. 1996. “Estimation of Depreciation Rate of Physical and R & D Capital in the U.S. Total Manufacturing Sector.” Economic Inquiry 34: 4356.Google Scholar
Page, Benjamin I., and Shapiro, Robert Y.. 1992. The Rational Public: Fifty Years of Trends in Americans’ Policy Preferences. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Palm, Risa. 1997. “Demand for Disaster Insurance: Residential Coverage.” Paying the Price: The Status and Role of Insurance Against Natural Disasters in the United States, eds. Kunreuther, Howard and Roth, Richard J. Sr.Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 5166.Google Scholar
Partin, Randall W. 1995. “Economic Conditions and Gubernatorial Elections.” American Politics Research 23: 8195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Popkin, Samuel I. 1991. The Reasoning Voter. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rudolph, Thomas J. 2003a. “Who's Responsible for the Economy? The Formation and Consequences of Responsibility Attributions.” American Journal of Political Science 47: 698713.Google Scholar
Rudolph, Thomas J. 2003b. “Institutional Context and the Assignment of Political Responsibility.” Journal of Politics 65: 190215.Google Scholar
Schneider, Saundra. 2008. “Who's to Blame? (Mis)perceptions of the Intergovernmental Response to Disasters.” Publius: The Journal of Federalism 38: 715–38.Google Scholar
Sears, David O., and Citrin, Jack. 1985. Tax Revolt: Something for Nothing in California. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Shepsle, Kenneth A., and Weingast, Barry R.. 1981. “Political Preferences for the Pork Barrel: A Generalization.” American Journal of Political Science 26: 96111.Google Scholar
Sniderman, Paul M., Brody, Richard A., and Tetlock, Philip. 1991. Reasoning and Choice: Explorations in Political Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Sobel, Russell, and Leeson, Peter. 2006. “Government's Response to Hurricane Katrina: A Public Choice Analysis.” Public Choice 127: 5573.Google Scholar
Sofgre, Erik. 2008. “How to Fix U.S. Infrastructure.” Popular Mechanics, 185, 6075.Google Scholar
Stein, Robert M. 1990. “Economic Voting for Governor and U.S. Senator: The Electoral Consequences of Federalism.” Journal of Politics 52: 2953.Google Scholar
Stein, Robert M., and Bickers, Kenneth N.. 1995. Perpetuating the Pork Barrel: Policy Subsystems and American Democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Wachtendorf, Tricia, Connell, Rory, Monahan, Brian, and Tierney, Kathleen. 2002. “Disaster Resistant Communities Initiative: An Assessment of Ten Pilot Communities.” Report to FEMA, Disaster Research Center, University of Delaware.Google Scholar
Wachtendorf, Tricia, and Tierney, Kathleen J.. 2001. “Disaster Resistant Communities Initiative: Local Community Representatives Share Their Views: Year Three Focus Group Final Project Report.” Report to FEMA, Disaster Research Center, University of Delaware.Google Scholar
Walters, Jonathan, and Kettl, Donald. 2005. “The Katrina Breakdown.” Governing December.Google Scholar
Weingast, Barry R., Shepsle, Kenneth A., and Johnsen, Christopher. 1981. “The Political Economy of Benefits and Costs: A Neoclassical Approach to Distributive Politics.” Journal of Political Economy 89: 642–64.Google Scholar
Witt, James L. 1998. “Project Impact: Building a Disaster Resistant Community.” Disaster Recovery Journal. January 30. www.drj.com/articles/Win98/witt.htm (July 23, 2009).Google Scholar
Wittman, Donald A. 1995. The Myth of Democratic Failure: Why Political Institutions Are Efficient. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Zaller, John. 1999. A Theory of Media Politics. UCLA. Monograph.Google Scholar