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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Dr Patrick M Kuhn

Rudolph, Lukas & Kuhn, Patrick M. (2018). Natural Disasters and Political Participation: Evidence from the 2002 and 2013 Floods in Germany. German Politics 27(1): 1-24.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

How do natural disasters affect electoral participation? The existing social science literature offers contradictory predictions. A considerable body of research in sociology and psychology suggests that traumatic events can inspire pro-social behaviour, which might increase turnout. Yet, political science has long held that even minor changes to participation costs of low benefit activities can lead to considerable drops in civic engagement. Consequently, natural disasters should reduce electoral participation. We show how these distinct views can be jointly analysed within the Riker–Ordeshook model of voting. This paper then reports results on the impact of the 2002 and 2013 floods in Germany on turnout in federal and state elections in Saxony and Bavaria, conducted few weeks after the floods. Analysing community level turnout data, and drawing on a difference-in-differences framework, we find that flood exposure has a consistent negative effect on turnout. This indicates that the increase in the costs of voting outweighed any increase in political engagement in our case and stands in contrast to findings from developing contexts, where flood management was convincingly linked to electoral participation.