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Published September 2011 | public
Journal Article

Flooding the Vote: Hurricane Katrina and Voter Participation in New Orleans


To what extent did the extensive flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina affect voter participation in the 2006 mayoral election? This article uses voting record data from 20 election cycles, GIS-coded flood-depth data, and census data to examine the voting behavior of registered voters in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina. We use a variety of statistical techniques, primarily propensity score matching methods, to examine how flooding affected mayoral turnout. We find that flooding decreased participation, but registered voters who experienced more than 6 ft of flooding were more likely to participate in the election than those who experienced less flooding. This finding confirms that increasing the cost of voting decreases turnout and suggests several mechanisms motivating an expressive component of voting behavior. Our results indicate there is a complex relationship between participation and the costs and benefits of turnout. Our findings about the characteristics of the voters who participated in the mayoral election provide insights into the scope of change for the political landscape of New Orleans.

Additional Information

© 2011 The Author(s). The authors wish to thank the Louisiana Secretary of State's office for providing access to these data, the DIGIT lab at the University of Utah for their work integrating these data with Census and other data, and Delia Bailey who provided us with R programming assistance. The authors thank conference participants for their comments on an earlier work. They also thank Alexander Trechsel, Mark Franklin, Guido Schwerdt, and other participants in the "Innovations in Research on Political Behaviour" Workshop at the European University Institute for their comments about this research project. The authors received no financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article.

Additional details

August 19, 2023
October 24, 2023