Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How Will Sandy Affect the Election?

I'm curious as to whether there is any past evidence of the effect of natural catastrophes on electoral outcomes. I could imagine that a hurricane with widespread damage might make people feel insecure and so more inclined for stasis rather then change, leading to more votes for the incumbents. Alternatively, people might operate with a rule of thumb blaming all current bad outcomes on whoever is currently in power on the  assumption that actual causal connections are too hard to work out, and so be more likely to vote against the incumbents. I have been told (but have been unable to confirm) that there is a phrase in Italian that translates as "It's raining again—pig of a government."

Someone must have studied the question, and perhaps one of my readers can point me at the result. Alternatively, some of you may have other ideas for possible linkages in either direction.

 

19 Comments:

At 10:29 AM, October 30, 2012, Blogger Phil Birnbaum said...

It might lead to more votes for the candidate more vocal about climate change.

 
At 10:37 AM, October 30, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You hadn't seen this already?

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/29/impact-of-hurricane-sandy-on-election-is-uncertain/

 
At 10:48 AM, October 30, 2012, Blogger Scrvpvlvs said...

Piove? Porco Governo!

 
At 11:01 AM, October 30, 2012, Blogger David Friedman said...

Scrvpvlvs, is that a quote from somewhere, or are you merely translating what I wrote into Italian? I heard it somewhere, but hadn't found a source.

 
At 12:26 PM, October 30, 2012, Blogger Scrvpvlvs said...

That's a common Italian expression. You can confirm it is, in fact, a common Italian expression by Googling it. Cheers!

 
At 4:30 PM, October 30, 2012, OpenID hudebnik said...

I gather there's some research showing that if good/bad things happen to you just before an election (e.g. your team winning/losing the Big Game), you tend to vote for/against the incumbent, respectively. Since for most people, Sandy is a Bad Thing, that would tend to hurt Obama.

OTOH, if a lot of people perceive government agencies as actually helping them in this crisis, they might be more suspicious of Romney's government-can-do-no-right rhetoric. More broadly, if a lot of people perceive their neighbors as helping them in this crisis, they might be more inclined towards a feeling of "we're all in this together" rather than the individualism of the Republican party.

As for Phil Birnbaum's comment about climate change... both candidates have been utterly silent about climate change in this campaign. I think "everybody knows" that Obama thinks it's a problem and Romney doesn't, but any political candidate who says publicly that it's a problem will be targeted for massive campaign spending by the oil-gas-and-coal industry.

 
At 4:48 PM, October 30, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sure that among those crazy enough to think that God cares about the outcome of US elections, there are many who think this is divine punishment for those East Coast liberal sinners.

 
At 6:16 PM, October 30, 2012, Blogger John David Galt said...

My prediction is that it will not have any noticeable effect on this election, but may heavily affect the next election depending on whether FEMA performs (or is seen by the public as performing) as poorly as it did after Katrina.

It certainly damps my optimism that nobody proposed abolishing FEMA then. I've been through two major quakes here in California; the emergency response to both was pretty much all by local agencies and was done fairly well. I'm sure that FEMA will be in charge next time, though, and will do to us what they did to New Orleans.

 
At 1:02 AM, October 31, 2012, Blogger Mark Horning said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's not the effect that Sandy will have on the election, but rather the effect that Sandy will have on the Market.

If the Market has a huge sell-off on Wednesday and does not recover by next Tuesday then that would be bad news for the incumbent.

 
At 2:15 AM, October 31, 2012, Anonymous Pietro Poggi-Corradini said...

The version I know is "Piove! Governo ladro!"

"Rain! Thief of a government!"

 
At 8:05 AM, October 31, 2012, Blogger Salli Weston, said...

Here's a Slate article on teh subject:
http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2012/10/29/hurricane_sandy_s_political_impact_obama_s_response_to_the_storm_could_change.html

 
At 11:51 AM, October 31, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no new info but my gut tells me that it must help Obama. You noted, "I could imagine that a hurricane with widespread damage might make people feel insecure and so more inclined for stasis rather then change, leading to more votes for the incumbents."

That is exactly what I think will happen but only a couple of swing states are involved. The rest of the nation is not in the storm's path. I think it will be a wash probably.

 
At 6:18 AM, November 01, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

..and it's funny Obama says government employees need to cut through red tape and bureaucracy to help Sandy's victims, yet he's the leader of the party which advocates red tape and bureaucracy, except they call it "regulation".

 
At 2:37 PM, November 01, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe the common phrase is "Piove, Governo Ladro!" I've been in Italy for a while now and haven't heard it, but now I'll be sure to ask about it. Here's an article: http://www.culturediscovery.com/tuscany-umbria-cooking-vacation-blog/culture/welcome-to-italy-tax/

 
At 3:03 PM, November 01, 2012, Blogger NCLu said...

This was posted to Marginal Revolution only a few days ago:
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/10/blind-retrospection-electoral-responses-to-drought-flu-and-shark-attacks.html

 
At 3:13 AM, November 02, 2012, Blogger Marco de Innocentis said...

The outcome of the German federal election in September 2002 has been blamed on the floods in north-eastern Germany during the previous month. The chancellor candidate for the conservative coalition was Edmund Stoiber of the CSU (the Bavarian sister party of the CDU), who had earlier defeated Angela Merkel and was running against the incumbent, Gerhard Schröder of the SPD.

Soon after the floods, Schröder was in the news, walking through the flooded streets in rubber boots. Stoiber stayed away and accused Schröder of populism and "high water tourism".

Some commentators blamed Stoiber's decision not to visit the affected areas for his election loss (he had earlier been in the lead). However, another important reason was the SPD's stance against the Iraq war. More information can be found in the following article (in German)

http://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article108607179/Als-Schroeder-Stoiber-im-Hochwasser-versenkte.html

 
At 5:36 PM, November 03, 2012, Blogger Ken Stitt said...

I think Sandy will give Obama an opportunity to look presidential. Romney likely doesn't benefit.

 
At 5:37 PM, November 03, 2012, Blogger Ken Stitt said...

I think Sandy will give Obama an opportunity to look presidential. Romney likely doesn't benefit.

 
At 7:59 PM, November 03, 2012, Blogger Gordon said...

You are talking about the effect the hurricane might have on how voters would vote *if* they voted. But Sandy may affect the election, at least in the affected areas, more by its impact on how difficult it is to get to the polls or to take the time away from waiting in gas lines.

 

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