Voter gratitude varies in the East and the West of Germany

Paper published in European Economic Review

2021/02/02 by

Michael Neugart and Johannes Rode (both TUD) have studied whether retrospective voting is related to voters' democratic experience. The authors compare the voting behavior in West Germany to the voting behavior in the formerly non-democratic East Germany after a disaster relief program addressing a flood in 2013. The analysis reveals a 0.9 percentage points increase in the vote share for the incumbent party in the flooded municipalities in the East compared to the West. Dividing the total costs of the disaster relief program by the votes swayed yields a cost per vote of approximately 11,380 euros.

Voting after a major flood: Is there a link between democratic experience and retrospective voting?

Analyzing an earlier flood, variation of democratic experience within East Germany, and a panel survey provides further evidence that less democratically experienced voters are easier prey to pre-election policies.

The findings may not only have implications for relief programs connected to the pandemic but also for government programs fighting other natural disasters, economic downturns or inequality, and the working of democracies, in which incumbents may use public money to sway votes, more generally.


Michael Neugart and Johannes Rode, 2021, “Voting after a major flood: Is there a link between democratic experience and retrospective voting?”, European Economic Review, 133, DOI:10.1016/j.euroecorev.2021.103665

Before March 23, 2021, the published version is available free of charge using the following link:

Online-Appendix and Replication Files with Data are available as supplementary material on the journal homepage.