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Electoral Earthquake: Natural Disasters and the Geography of Discontent

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  • Cerqua, A.
  • Ferrante, C.
  • Letta, M.

Abstract

The recent literature on the determinants of populism has highlighted the role of long-term trends of progressive isolation and prolonged economic stagnation in engendering discontent and, in turn, demand for political change. We investigate, instead, the potential of unanticipated local shocks in shaping the ‘geography of discontent’. Using comprehensive data at a fine spatial scale and a comparative natural experiment approach, we document that the occurrence of two destructive earthquakes in Italy resulted in sharply diverging electoral outcomes: while the 2012 Emilia quake did not alter voting behaviour, the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake paved the way for an impressive and persistent surge in right-wing populism in the most affected areas. Such heterogeneous patterns mainly originate from a stark contrast in post-disaster reconstruction processes and shifts in institutional trust. Our findings are consistent with the idea that not only “places that don’t matter”, but also “places that don’t recover”, can become populist hotbeds.

Suggested Citation

  • Cerqua, A. & Ferrante, C. & Letta, M., 2021. "Electoral Earthquake: Natural Disasters and the Geography of Discontent," GLO Discussion Paper Series 790, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:n790
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    elections; populism; discontent; natural disasters; earthquakes;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H12 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Crisis Management
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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