Do natural disasters affect presidential approval ratings? In this study, we argue that in South Korea this relationship is conditional on regional partisan cleavages. Since partisanship induces perceptual biases among distinct social groups, we expect that (1) the president’s co-partisans will not blame their president even if the government fails to prevent or mitigate damage from natural disasters, and (2) human and economic losses from disasters, or delivery of disaster relief aid, may boost approval ratings in partisan strongholds. We test these hypotheses using South Korea’s Park Geun-hye and Moon Jae-in administrations. The results of vector auto-regressions show that regional partisanship toward the incumbent significantly influences job approval ratings in the wake of natural disasters. While public opinion in metropolitan areas was not affected by disaster losses, both presidents’ approval rose after disasters—typhoons and windstorms, in particular—struck their strongholds in the southeastern part of the country.

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