Sandy’s Effect on the Election
by The Milton Measure on Friday, November 16th, 2012
Although it hit almost two weeks ago, Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, remains vivid in many Americans’ minds. Taking more than 110 lives and, by a Time Magazine estimate, costing the government $60 billion, Hurricane Sandy continues to affect the day-to-day lives of many. But while the aftermath of the hurricane is still unfolding, the 2012 Presidential Election has come and gone. Did the destructive storm impact the outcome of the race?
After the hurricane devastated New Jersey and New York on October 29th, Obama, pursuant to his role as President, acted decisively in coordinating relief efforts and visiting storm ravaged areas. These moves, while not overtly political, seem to have had some affect on the polls. According to FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s political forecasting blog, Obama’s chances of winning the Presidential Election rose from 73% to 86% after the hurricane hit. Mostly East Coast states were affected by Sandy, and election results showed that every East Coast state, except for North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, voted for Obama. These results, however, are almost entirely coincidental, particularly since New York, New Jersey, and most of the Northeast have supported Democratic candidates for the past six Presidential elections.
But another factor could have affected the election’s outcome. The hurricane focused attention not only on Obama’s leadership, but also on a crucial topic that was not brought up in either of the three presidential debates in this election: global warming.
Climatologist Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University stated that “sea surface temperatures off the East Coast also contributed to the flooding [from Hurricane Sandy]. Giving rise to above-average levels of water vapor, they helped intensify the storm and produce more rain.” Contributing to the sudden awareness of the link between global warming and Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg of New York “jumped off the political sidelines [on November 1] to make a sudden, eleventh-hour endorsement of President Obama, all because of Hurricane Sandy,” as reported by the NY Daily News.
The surprise of Bloomberg’s endorsement shows how seriously he feels about the growing issue of global warming, which may have become more important to voters in the wake of the storm. The fact that global warming was not a topic of discussion in any of the three debates left open the question of which candidate could best address the changing climate issue. Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to endorse Obama may have had a strong influence on voters, especially centrists whom he claims to represent.
Although the storm made it difficult for many of those affected to leave their streets, it did not dampen voter turnout for the election. Wisconsin’s Leader-Telegram reported that “election day turnout was heavy Tuesday in several storm-ravaged areas in New York and New Jersey.” The damage done by Sandy may have even motivated residents to vote, as a symbol of perseverance through adversity. Residents who “braved 29 degree temperatures as they lined up” to vote proved that elections retain their importance through natural disasters. Though Sandy destroyed towns as well as lives, it gave citizens a chance to see another side of our re-elected President.
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