The CSDC Speaker Series Presents:
“Natural Disasters, ‘Partisan Retrospection,’ and U.S. Presidential Elections”
Professor Jeffrey Jenkins (University of Virginia)
You can learn more about Professor Jenkins by clicking here.
To view this talk, click here.
Political science research investigating whether natural disasters help or hurt politicians’ electoral fortunes has produced conflicting results. Achen and Bartels (2002, 2016) argue that voters punish elected officials indiscriminately in the wake of a natural disaster – relying on ‘blind retrospection.’ Others have argued that voters incorporate elected officials’ subsequent relief efforts in their assessment and instead rely on ‘attentive retrospection.’ In this paper, we argue that an additional consideration might also affect voters’ response to natural disasters: the partisan affiliation of an elected official. We argue that whether voters reward or punish elected officials for disasters – and the extent to which they punish them – is influenced by whether the official is a co-partisan. We look for evidence of ‘partisan retrospection’ by examining the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the 2012 presidential election, and find that voters in affected counties that were safely Democratic rewarded incumbent President Barack Obama, while those in affected counties that were safely Republican punished him. We explore this hypothesis in a more systematic way by investigating disasters and presidential elections between 1972 and 2004, using data collected by Gasper and Reeves (2011). We find that voters in counties that are strongly partisan in the direction of an incumbent president reward him following disasters, while voters in counties strongly partisan in the opposite direction neither reward nor punish.
This series is sponsored by the Inter-university Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship (https://csdc-cecd.ca/) which is funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC).