Article | Journal of Development Economics | 2012

Do Voters Demand Responsive Governments? Evidence from Indian Disaster Relief

by Shawn Cole, Andrew Healy and Eric Werker

Abstract

Using rainfall, public relief, and election data from India, we examine how governments respond to adverse shocks and how voters react to these responses. The data show that voters punish the incumbent party for weather events beyond its control. However, fewer voters punish the ruling party when its government responds vigorously to the crisis, indicating that voters reward the government for responding to disasters. We also find evidence suggesting that voters only respond to rainfall and government relief efforts during the year immediately preceding the election. In accordance with these electoral incentives, governments appear to be more generous with disaster relief in election years. These results describe how failures in electoral accountability can lead to suboptimal policy outcomes.

Keywords: Political Elections; System Shocks; Natural Disasters; Policy; Motivation and Incentives; Public Opinion; India;

Citation:

Cole, Shawn, Andrew Healy, and Eric Werker. "Do Voters Demand Responsive Governments? Evidence from Indian Disaster Relief." Journal of Development Economics, no. 97 (2012): 167–181.