No.62 Do Voters Prefer Relief Over Preparedness? Evidence from Disaster Policies in Malawi
Growing evidence suggests that voters reward politicians for spending on disaster relief but not disaster preparedness. Yet, we know little about the mechanisms that underpin this pattern. I propose that voters value effective preparedness as much as effective relief. However, voters have pessimistic expectations about the effectiveness of preparedness policies compared to relief policies. I test the mechanisms using a conjoint experiment in rural Malawi where participants choose between two hypothetical candidates randomly varying attributes about their prevention and relief policies. I find that respondents reward relief efforts over preparedness efforts, but they value effective preparedness similarly to effective relief. Additionally, respondents are more likely to reward preparedness efforts if they lead to effective outcomes. These findings have important implications for the design of disaster policies.