In the aftermath of the summer 2004 Florida hurricane season, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) distributed $1.2 billion in disaster aid to Florida residents. This research presents two empirical findings that collectively suggest the Bush administration engaged in vote buying behavior. First, by tracking the geographic location of each aid recipient, the data reveal that FEMA treated applicants from Republican neighborhoods much more favorably than those from Democratic or moderate neighborhoods, even conditioning on hurricane severity, home value, and demographic factors. Second, I compare precinct-level vote counts from the post-hurricane (November 2004) and pre-hurricane (November 2002) elections to measure the effect of FEMA aid on Bush’s vote share. Using a two-stage least squares estimator, this analysis reveals that core Republican voters are easily swayed by FEMA aid - $16,800 buys one additional vote for Bush - while Democrats and moderates are not. Collectively, these results suggest the Bush administration maximized its 2004 vote share by concentrating FEMA disaster aid among core Republicans.
As Farley says, this kind of finding makes you think about Katrina and New Orleans; would the response have been nearly so inept and ineffective if the victimized area had been more of a GOP-friendly kind of place?