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Race, Hurricane Katrina, and Government Satisfaction: Examining the Role of Race in Assessing Blame

Forgette, R.; King, M.; Dettrey, B.
Publius (Journal)

July 11, 2008

Are there clear racial differences in government satisfaction across levels of government? And, if so, how do we explain this racial gap? Race was one of the prevailing cleavages in public attitudes toward Hurricane Katrina recovery and response. We propose and test contending explanations for racial differences in local, state, and national government satisfaction among Hurricane Katrina survivors. The first is an environmental vulnerability (racism) theory suggesting that minority populations are more vulnerable in their housing quality, location, and level of insurance compared to others. A second explanation relates to the role of informal or social networks in disaster recovery. We assess whether racial differences in perceptions of disaster response may be partly due to weaker informal social networks among minorities. A third explanation is that these differing explanations are largely a function of partisanship. Our findings indicate that the role of race in government evaluation was largely mediated through the greater environmental vulnerability and Democratic party identification of minorities.