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Who’ll Stop the Rain: Repeated Disasters and Attitudes Towards Government
Joshua P. Darr, Sarah D. Cate, & Daniel S. Moak
Social Science Quarterly 100 (7) 2019

We examine how prior experience with government agencies shapes citizens’ assessments of government performance. In Louisiana, two extreme weather events, 11 years apart, required intervention from the state and federal government: Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the 2016 floods. Were Louisianans’ attitudes toward government response shaped by their prior experiences during a natural disaster? Methods. We use an original survey of Louisianans to assess the role of Katrina experience in performance assessments of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Louisiana state government in 2016. Results. We find a significant negative relationship: flood aid applicants in 2016 rated state government much lower, but only if they also applied for Katrina aid. Conclusions. Those with personal experience with FEMA hold lower expectations of state government performance, which deteriorated under the Jindal Administration, and look to the federal government for support. Prior experience with government agencies establishes expectations of responsibility that endure years later.

Helicopter over wildfire at Shissler Lookout – Nez Perce National Forest