Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

The disastrous business of presidential campaigns: The effect of disaster declarations on presidential elections in FEMA Region 3

Ken Balbuena, MPA, Tonya E. Thornton, PhD, MPPA, Patrick Baxter, MIDP, Walter English, III, MS, Wendy Chen, PhD


The issuance of disaster declarations has become a politicized matter. Prior research has demonstrated that presidents are more generous in awarding disaster relief in federal election years, and that there is a prevalence to award governors from the opposing political party. Additionally, voters tend to reward presidents seeking re-election to a greater degree for disaster response assistance rather than funding preparedness. The original research for this paper explores the impact of natural disasters on re-election rates and analyzes voter trends during presidential election years in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 3 states for congruence with existing literature covering a national scope. Evaluations of the behaviors and (re)election margins of Presidents Bush and Obama are explored, and implications for President Trump’s re-election effort are based on quantitative data and qualitative comparisons.


disaster, declaration, electorate, COVID-19

Full Text:



Gasper J, Reeves A: Make it rain? Retrospection and the attentive electorate in the context of natural disasters. Am J Polit Sci. 2011; 55(2): 340-355.

Downton M, Pielke R: Discretion without accountability: Politics, flood damage, and climate. Nat Hazards Rev. 2001; 2(4): 157-166.

Gasper J: The politics of denying aid: An analysis of disaster declaration turndowns. J Public Manag Soc Policy. 2015; 22(2). Article 7.

Husted T, Nickerson D: Political economy of presidential disaster declarations and federal disaster assistance. Public Finan Rev. 2014; 42(1): 35-57.

Reeves A: Political disaster: Unilateral powers, electoral incentives, and presidential disaster declarations. J Polit. 2011; 73(4): 1142-1151.

Healy A, Malhotra N: Myopic voters and natural disaster policy. Am Polit Sci Rev. 2009; 103(3): 387-406.

McEntire DA: Disaster Response and Recovery: Strategies and Tactics for Resilience. 2nd ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2015.

Hills A: Seduced by recovery: The consequences of misunderstanding disaster. J Contingen Crisis Manag. 1998; 6(3): 162-170.

Storr VH, Haeffele-Balch S, Grube E: Community Revival in the Wake of Disaster: Lessons in Local Entrepreneurship. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Petak W: Emergency management: A challenge for public administration. Public Adm Rev. 1985; 45: 3-7.

Federal Emergency Management Agency: FEMA region 3 first in country to digitize all flood maps. Available at Accessed August 11, 2020.

West Virginia State Government: West Virginia statewide hazard mitigation plan update 2018. Available at Accessed August 13, 2020.

Federal Election Commission: Election and voting information. Available at Accessed June 25, 2020.

Federal Emergency Management Agency: Disaster declaration process. Available at Accessed August 16, 2020.

Paton D, Jackson D: Developing disaster management capability: An assessment centre approach. Disaster Prev Manag. 2002; 11(2): 115-122.

Dinan J, Gamkhar S: The State of American federalism 2008- 2009. The presidential election, the economic downturn, and the consequences for federalism. Publius. 2009; 39(3): 369-407.

Robertson D: Federalism and the Making of American. 2nd ed. Milton Park: Taylor & Francis, 2018.

Charnock J, McCann J, Tenpas K: Presidential travel from Eisenhower to George W. Bush: An electoral college strategy. Polit Sci Quar. 2009; 124(2): 323-339.

Saultz A, McEachin A, Fusarelli D: Waivering as governance: Federalism during the Obama administration. Educ Res. 2016; 45(6): 358-366.

Plott E: Here’s why Jim justice is switching parties. Available at Accessed August 13, 2020.

Coolidge A: P&G promises mega ‘factory of the future’ as it shuts down old sites. Available at Accessed August 13, 2020.

Brunsman B: P&G gears up new $500M plant. Available at Accessed August 12, 2020.

Vinoski J: The new construction approach that helped P&G build their “plant of the future”. 2020. Available at Accessed August 14, 2020.

LePore A, Cabrill A: The Future of Disaster Management in the US: Rethinking Legislation Policy, and Finance. Milton Park: Routledge, 2016.

Clarke S, Chenoweth E: The politics of vulnerability: Constructing local performance regimes for homeland security. Rev Policy Res. 2006; 23(1): 95-114.

Tindera M: Trump’s newest billionaire donors: A governor, A GOP megadonor and an alleged #MeToo perpetrator. Available at Accessed August 14, 2020.

Kary T: New US tariffs are bad news for this plant in trump country. Available at Accessed August 12, 2020.

Vernallis C: Audiovisual change: Viral web media and the Obama campaign. Cinema J. 2011; 50(4): 73-97.

Paton D, Johnston D: Disaster and communities: Vulnerability, resilience and preparedness. Disaster Prev Manag. 2001; 10(4): 270-277.

Heidari-Robinson S: Subjecting Donald Trump’s war against the administrative state to management science. Public Admin Rev. 2017; 77(5): 641-642.

McGaughey E: Fascism-lite in America (or the social ideal of Donald Trump). Br J Am Legal Stud. 2018; 7(2): 291-315.

Cohen F, Solomon S, Kaplin D: You’re hired! Mortality salience increases Americans’ support for Donald Trump. Anal Soc Issues Public Policy. 2017; 17(1): 339-357.

COMNAVMIDLANT: Welcome to naval station Norfolk. Available at Accessed August 15, 2020.

Reagan R: The war on coal is over: Assessing Obama-era regulations and the Trump Administration’s efforts to date. Environ Claims J. 2019; 31(3): 191-217.

Pearson K: President Trump and congressional republicans: Uncertain teamwork in the 115th congress. Forum. 2017; 15(3): 513-524.

Ettinger A: Principled realism and populist sovereignty in Trump’s foreign policy. Cambridge Rev Int Affairs. 2020; 33(3): 410-431.

McEntire D: Disaster Response and Recovery: Strategies and Tactics for Resilience. 2nd ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2015.

Boin A, McConnell A: Preparing for critical infrastructure breakdowns: The limits of crisis management and the need for resilience. J Contingencies Crisis Man. 2007; 15(1): 50-59.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2022 Journal of Emergency Management