Flooding the Vote: Hurricane Katrina and Voter Participation in New Orleans
Working Paper No.:  70
Date Published:  2008-11-30


Betsy Sinclair, The University of Chicago

Thad E. Hall, University of Utah

R. Michael Alvarez, California Institute of Technology


The flooding of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina resulted in a massive and rapid

exodus of individuals from New Orleans to locations around the United States. In the

midst of the hurricane recovery, the City of New Orleans reelected Mayor Ray Nagin to

a second term in office. Arguments regarding when this election would be held were

largely driven by views regarding the impact of the diaspora on the voting population in

New Orleans. With more than half of the city’s population gone, the unknown was who

would be able to vote. We use voting record data from twenty 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 apply a variety of statistical techniques,

including propensity score matching methods, to compare the mayoral turnout

of registered voters across flood depths. We find that registered voters who experienced

more than six feet of flooding were more likely to participate in the mayoral election than

registered voters who experienced less flooding. We attribute this to their increased motivation

to participate in municipal politics in conjunction with voter mobilization efforts in

the wake of Katrina. Our finding about the characteristics of the voters who participated

in the mayoral election given the flooding provides us insights into the scope of change

for the political landscape of New Orleans after the hurricane.


Flooding the Vote: Hurricane Katrina and Voter Participation in New Orleans  (Size: 3367 KB)