WP174: Disease, disaster, and disengagement: Ebola and political participation in Sierra Leone

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Working papers
Benjamin Crisman

How do widespread public health crises affect political behavior? This article examines the impact of the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak on political participation in Sierra Leone.

How do widespread public health crises affect individual attitudes and political behavior? Infectious diseases are ubiquitous in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and the intensity and frequency of outbreaks are increasing (Smith et al., 2014) and expected to continue to increase in the face of climate change (Altizer, Ostfeld, Johnson, Kutz, & Harvell, 2013), rising antibacterial resistance (Jones et al., 2008), and deforestation (Wolfe, Daszak, Kilpatrick, & Burke, 2005).

In the case of Ebola virus disease (EVD), these outbreaks are becoming more deadly (Diehl et al., 2016). While the negative consequences of persistent disease burden on economic outcomes is well known, as in the case of malaria (Sachs & Malaney, 2002) or HIV/AIDS (Whiteside, 2002), the consequences of disease crises on political development is less clear. In this article, I explore the relationship between Ebola exposure in the West African Ebola outbreak and political participation using individual responses from Afrobarometer Round 6 (2015) survey data in Sierra Leone.