Political storms: Emergent partisan skepticism of hurricane risks

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  11 Sep 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 37, eabb7906
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb7906


Mistrust of scientific evidence and government-issued guidelines is increasingly correlated with political affiliation. Survey evidence has documented skepticism in a diverse set of issues including climate change, vaccine hesitancy, and, most recently, COVID-19 risks. Less well understood is whether these beliefs alter high-stakes behavior. Combining GPS data for 2.7 million smartphone users in Florida and Texas with 2016 U.S. presidential election precinct-level results, we examine how conservative-media dismissals of hurricane advisories in 2017 influenced evacuation decisions. Likely Trump-voting Florida residents were 10 to 11 percentage points less likely to evacuate Hurricane Irma than Clinton voters (34% versus 45%), a gap not present in prior hurricanes. Results are robust to fine-grain geographic controls, which compare likely Clinton and Trump voters living within 150 m of each other. The rapid surge in media-led suspicion of hurricane forecasts—and the resulting divide in self-protective measures—illustrates a large behavioral consequence of science denialism.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science Advances