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Research shows that people prefer financial relief for disasters, but climate action is also needed.

Research shows that people prefer financial relief for disasters, but climate action is also needed.

two men talk in dry field

Within two months, Australians can vote in a federal election. It comes after a political term that was marked by major social challenges, such as floods, bushfires, and severe drought.

These natural disasters are likely to get worse due to climate change. So how does a person’s experience of disasters affect the way they vote?

This is the question I set out in my book, Research in progressinto the last federal elections. I found that people who experienced drought tended to be more concerned about economic security than environmental policies when they were deciding how to vote.

This resulted in more votes for micro-parties on election day and less votes for the incumbent Coalition. These findings may give insight into how the next election will be affected by the current floods in southeast Australia.

two men talk in dry field
Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister, speaking to a drought-affected farmer. These voters are more likely to prioritize economic security.
Dan PeledAAP

Retrace your thoughts

Much of Australia was afflicted by heatwaves, drought, and other extreme weather conditions heading into the May 2019 elections.

The four months leading up to April were the hottest periodRecord.
Dams were low FarmersWe barely made it through.

The parched Murray–Darling Basin had experienced mass Fishes killAnd the rainfall in Australia that same year would be 40% less than average, the LowestRecord.

These conditions led to candidates and political parties adopting drastically different drought strategies for the election.

Labor and the Greens promised significant cuts to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, to varying degrees. Labor also Promisedto promote renewable energy, offered climate adaption programs to farmers, and the Greens promisedTo assist farmers in implementing sustainable agricultural systems.

The Liberal-National government, however, is largely in contrast. OfferedInstead of pledging to mitigate climate changes and future droughts, rural communities can receive economic relief.

Continue reading:
Just because both sides support drought relief, doesn’t mean it’s right

Various micro-parties largely favoured the Coalition’s compensation approach. They also advocated strongly for local measures.

For example, Katter’s Australian Party agitatedFor more money, you can donate to your local councils. One Nation Australia should be free from international climate agreements. It should also advocate for greater local ownership and control of water resources.

Research shows that the experience of unusual weather in a particular area is more common than you might think. IncreaseAs does the public belief in climate changes Low rainfall.

In certain cases, extreme weather events lead to support for “green” policies and politicians. And incumbent governments that fail this test are not successful. Prepare for or treatElections can be made more difficult by the effects of natural disasters.

However, believing in climate change does NOT always translate into support for climate action. Previous research has shown that Americans vote for climate change after a natural disaster. favour politiciansPeople who offer disaster relief spending are better than those who invest into disaster preparedness.

I wanted to see if the same dynamic was seen in Australia. I was interested in how voters affected by drought in 2019 changed their voting patterns relative to the drought-free election of 2016.

man in hat stands behind counter with two women
In 2019, micro-party candidate Bob Katter promised voters economic relief, strong local advocacy, and strong local leadership.
Dave Hunt/AAP

What I found

My research drew on the Australian Election Study’s first ever panel surveyAustralian voters. The study examined the same 968 respondents after the 2016 and 2019 elections.

By matching the participants’ postcodes with rainfall maps from the Bureau of Meteorology, I separated voters into those who were impacted by drought in 2019, and those who were not.

I found that voters who experienced drought tended to be more concerned about the management of government debt and the economy when they were deciding how they would vote. Contrary to my expectations, they also placed less importance on the environment.

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Scott Morrison’s tone-deaf leadership can be the last thing flood victims in need of. Here are two ways he could do better

The Coalition is considered to be better at economic management that other parties. The Coalition could also promise relief and compensation for droughts to Australians as it is the incumbent party.

However, this apparent advantage didn’t translate into voting patterns for 2019.

The Coalition lost votes to drought-affected areas by comparison to the 2016 election. I calculated that drought reduced first-preference vote share in the House of Representatives by 3% and 1.6% respectively in the Senate, at 7,443 national voting places.

Nearly 5% of the local micro-parties that are located in drought-exposed regions have seen their support increase. Drought didn’t have a significant impact on the vote share for Labor or the Greens.

I looked for other explanations than the drought that could explain the trend.
These included a region’s employment profile and population density, climate scepticism, and rates of political disaffection such as the number of blank ballots cast.

However, the voting patterns remained consistent across all variables.

middle aged man and women walk holding hands
A lot changed for the Liberal-Nationals between 2016 and 2019, including a fall in the party’s vote share in drought-affected areas. Pictured: Barnaby Joyce (Nationals leader) with Natalie, his wife in 2016.
Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Balance between short and long horizons

While drought-stricken voters voted in 2019 because they were concerned about economic security, the Coalition was not rewarded for its promises of economic relief. They favored smaller parties that emphasized both economic security as well as strong local leadership.

Support for minor parties may bring about economic benefits in the local area. Analyse, for example Has been foundSince 2013, electorates represented solely by minor parties or independents received the highest per capita funding from national grants programs with ministerial discretion.

My research shows that voters place greater importance on economic security after a natural catastrophe than climate solutions.

However, prioritizing relief and recovery without disaster prevention and preparedness is extremely detrimental in the long-term.

Climate change is threatening to increase droughts and heavy rainfall, which can lead to flooding. As the Latest reportThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has shown that Australia is at the forefront of these worsening catastrophes.

What does this all mean for politicians and parties who want to address climate change?

My research suggests that they should pursue policies that reduce emissions and protect Australians against the effects of an unstable environment. They should also seek immediate and tangible economic benefits.

Read more:
Weather forecasts won’t save us – we must pre-empt monster floods years before they hit

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