Vulnerability Reduction and Political Responsiveness: Explaining Executive Decisions in U.S. Disaster Policy during the Ford and Carter Administrations

August 2002 (VOL. 20, NO. 2)

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Decision-making by elected executives on disaster policy reflects comprehensive vulnerability management, political responsiveness to the media, political negotiation, and intergovernmental conflict. If vulnerability reduction is a significant influence, executive decisions should reflect political and social vulnerability and self-sufficiency. If political responsiveness influences disaster decisions, executive decisions should also reflect media coverage, proximity to elections, and decisions at other levels of government. The data set included 293 major disaster requests between 1974 and 1981. The analysis used multiple regression and logistic regression. Vulnerability reduction had an impact on aid decisions. Political responsiveness affected most decisions on disaster relief. The Ford administration was more sensitive to both responsiveness and vulnerability than the Carter administration. Overall, nationalization of disaster assistance has made the achievement of vulnerability management more difficult. The absence of minimum criteria has increased the discretion of executive choice.