Random Events, Economic Losses, and Retrospective Voting: Implications for Democratic Competence
Quarterly Journal of Political Science (QJPS) | 10/08/2010
We leverage the natural experiment afforded by tornado incidence to estimate the effect of exogenous economic loss on electoral outcomes. We find that voters punish the incumbent party in presidential elections for economic damage resulting from tornadoes. Although this behavior could suggest that retrospective voting in this domain reflects voters irrationally blaming incumbent politicians for circumstances beyond their control, we instead find evidence suggesting that voting behavior reflects democratic competence. First, voters do not punish the incumbent party for tornado-caused deaths, which governments likely do not have the power to address with effective policy. Second, the incumbent party only appears to lose votes when no disaster declaration takes place in response to the tornado. Thus, voters appear to be rewarding and punishing government with respect to its performance in handling the disaster, as opposed to blaming the government for these natural events.
Andrew Healy and Neil Malhotra (2010), "Random Events, Economic Losses, and Retrospective Voting: Implications for Democratic Competence", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 5: No. 2, pp 193-208. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00009057