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Hurricane Sandy ‘didn’t hurt president’ in election

Andrew Holleran / Photo editor

With ballots counted and results called, it’s unclear what influence Hurricane Sandy had on the outcome of the election.
Ohio State political science professor Paul Beck said it’s hard to tell what role the storm had in the outcome of the Nov. 6 election.
“I am not sure if I can answer that question well, or if anyone can,” Beck said.
Matt Hitt, a political science graduate student, said the outcome of a presidential election is influenced by many variables, making it hard to determine the role the storm played.
“It was the campaign, it was debate performance, it was his (President Barack Obama’s) advertising, it was response to Hurricane Sandy, it was Osama bin Laden, it was the auto industry,” Hitt said of Obama’s re-election. “It was probably all of those things.”
Hitt said the hurricane probably did influence voter turnout in the states significantly affected by the hurricane, such as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. However, both he and Beck said this was no problem for Obama’s campaign.
“One thing we can say for sure is Hurricane Sandy didn’t hurt the president,” Hitt said.
Beck said natural disasters have an important part in the political arena because they give the candidate an opportunity to act presidential. He said that during the 2010 BP oil spill, people questioned Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ability to act accordingly during natural disasters.
During this latest test of presidential qualities, Beck said Obama and FEMA performed very well.
Beck said even if he had done poorly with addressing the disaster, it might not have mattered.
“At that point in the campaign most people have their minds made up,” Beck said.  
Beck explained the states most heavily influenced by the storm were not battleground states. He said that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were claimed as blue before the hurricane made landfall, so the storm was unlikely to sway voters there.  
“Obama’s advantage was so big in those states that even the reduced turnout didn’t matter,” Hitt said. “He still won them quite (handily).”
Josh Foster, a first-year in exercise science education, said he did not pay much attention to the campaign and attributed his decision to the negative television ads.
Foster said he thought the ads are the biggest factor contributing to low voter turnout, and if the ads were more positive, he would have had more of an interest in the election.
“I wish they would educate more,” Foster said. “I wish media would be a little more descriptive, and positive.”
Hitt said students should remember the social nature of this world. He said things are rarely as simple as a single event influencing the outcome of an election.
“For us to be able to use the tools of social science to peel it apart and say this one thing caused it, independent of all those other things, is a very difficult thing for us to do,” Hitt said. “A lot of the times it is reasonable to say that is part of why it happened.”
Hurricane Sandy was downgraded to a superstorm upon landfall last month, but the storm devastated parts of New Jersey and New York, as well as other parts of the East Coast. Thousands on the coast were forced to evacuate their homes due to flooding. More than 110 people in the U.S. died and about 70 people died when the storm hit the Caribbean before arriving on the East Coast. Thousands remained without power Monday, almost two weeks after the storm hit the U.S.

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