Fairness matters when responding to disasters: An experimental study of government legitimacy



Governments worldwide are regularly faced with severe weather conditions and disasters caused by natural hazards. Does the way in which governments respond to disasters affect their legitimacy? The current study investigated how evaluations of authorities were influenced by four aspects of a governmental response to a hypothetical disaster. In a survey experiment participants read a scenario in which a government distributed aid in the aftermath of a flooding. Data were collected from the Netherlands, France, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia (N = 2,677). Results showed that the government was seen as more legitimate when it was described as distributing resources fairly, following fair procedures, and providing a material benefit to the participant. However, in contrast to predictions derived from system‐justification theory, results showed that outcome dependence was associated with reduced legitimacy. These findings suggest that response policies that address both instrumental and fairness concerns might help maintain positive evaluations of governments.
Date made available2020
Date of data production21 Nov 2016

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