Chris Blattman

Disaster politics

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A paper I’ve been meaning to post for some time:

Using rainfall, public relief, and election data from India, we examine how governments respond to adverse shocks and how voters react to these responses. The data show that voters punish the incumbent party for weather events beyond its control. However, we find evidence that fewer voters punish the ruling party when the party responds vigorously to the crisis.

Punishing incumbents for events beyond their control is not necessarily irrational or silly. Voters have trouble distinguishing real performance from adverse shocks, and so are going to reward politicians in good times and punish them in bad times.

Even so, my faith in humanity is strained somewhat when voters punish politicians for shark attacks and the flu.

3 Responses

  1. Thanks for this. I’m trying to figure out a control variable for the effects of a volcanic eruption. Very helpful.

  2. But surely Indian farmers are aware of the strength of a monsoon – it is impossible not to be, and are also aware of water’s impact on crop production. So then voting against incumbents after a bad monsoon does seem silly.

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