Natural Disasters and the Limits of Electoral Clientelism: Evidence from Honduras

Sarah Birch, Ferran Martinez i Coma

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The changing climate is leading to more frequent weather extremes across the globe, altering many aspects of social, economic and political life. In this paper we examine the impact of natural disasters on clientelism, a form of particularistic exchange in which voters are induced to eschew policy-oriented electoral decision-making in favour of voting for a party or candidate that offers them a targeted reward. We hypothesize that extreme weather should increase clientelism in contexts where it operates. But we also anticipate that multiple severe disasters may overwhelm clientelist networks, as demand outstrips supply. Triangulating quantitative and qualitative data, we test our expectations and find strong evidence that flood-based resources have been clientelized in Honduras, but that the combination of especially widespread flooding and the COVID-19 pandemic generated a situation where political parties were unable to use their clientelist networks effectively, as citizen need was too great.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102651
Early online date15 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • Clientelism; extreme weather; flooding; Honduras; electoral integrity


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