Issue ownership and salience shocks: The electoral impact of Australian bushfires

WashU affiliated authors: Jordan H. McAllister, Afiq bin Oslan (Dept. of Political Science)

Abstract: As climate change increases the frequency of natural disasters, understanding how such disasters affect voting behavior has become crucial. While the literature has demonstrated that voters punish the party of the incumbent when they experience severe destruction, it remains unclear how other political parties are affected. In particular, we argue that voters shift their support to Green parties following natural disasters, given that these parties have ownership of environmental issues. We further argue that disasters decrease mainstream leftist parties’ vote share because liberal-minded voters are more likely to be the ones switching to Green parties. Empirical tests on bushfires and voting in Australia provide some support for our predictions, as all the expected effects of fires on voting manifest in state-level tests but not constituency-level tests. This suggests that our theory may operate only at certain levels of governance, paving the way for future research into why this might be.

Citation or DOI: