How Hurricane Sandy Could Impact U.S. Presidential Election

Studies have shown that extreme weather can change how people vote.

The Hurricane Sandy, which has caused mass destruction, flooding and death, will almost certainly have an impact on the 2012 United States presidential election.

Political researchers have found that extreme weather influences how voters review presidents and governors, and the massive disaster might affect voter turnout.

Andrew Reeves and John Gasper, political science professors at Boston University and Carnegie Mellon University, found that voters punish political leaders for unable to react sufficiently to natural catastrophes—and reward those who respond effectively.

”Voters did in fact punish both governors and presidents for damage caused by natural disasters, but that that effect was really swamped by their response,” Reeves suggests.

With election just days away, Hurricane Sandy could significantly affect voter turnout in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The worst natural events and disasters such as Sandy aren’t the only kind of weather that impacts voters’ decisions. There’s proof voters even reprimand incumbents for harsh weather conditions during an election year.

“The pretty strong pattern turns out to be that all other things being equal, the incumbent party does less well when it’s too wet or too dry,” explains Larry Bartels, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University.

In 2004, Bartels and his then-colleague Christopher Achen, who’s now a professor at Princeton, conducted a study on the impact of climate on elections. According to their findings, Al Gore lost an estimated 2.8 million votes to George W. Bush in certain states simply because of drought or excessive rain.

The weather conditions over the course of the past year will affect President Obama’s chances of reelection. How a president handles a crisis matters, according to Reeves—and how a president sells his management of a crisis may influence voters’ decisions.

“Every president puts up pictures of himself with shirtsleeves rolled up comforting voters,” Reeves states. “I’m willing to bet that we’re going to see the White House put up a picture of Obama doing the same.”

Reeves was right, on Friday, the White House sent out a photograph of President Obama on
a conference call with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Hurricane Center.

But political arena can lower the human cost of natural disasters and make a bungled reaction look even worse.

“There’s that iconic photograph of President Bush flying over New Orleans looking down from his plane: That was a case where framing and the action didn’t go so well,” Reeves suggests.

Presidents’ approval ratings can decrease when the mismanagement of a natural disaster becomes
a national event.

“Especially because it’s happening so close to the election, probably the visible response of the administration to the situation is going to matter more than the situation itself,” Bartels says.

Basically, how Hurricane Sandy affects the 2012 election is partly in President Obama’s hands.

Mother Jones

For more info read Romney ignores questions about eliminating FEMA

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