The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Trust in Government


  • Keith Nicholls shall share all data and coding for replication purposes. Funds for data collection were provided by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation funded through the Social Science Research Council. The authors acknowledge the support and encouragement provided by Kai T. Erikson. The comments provided by anonymous reviewers improved the overall quality of this article. The authors are solely responsible for all content and interpretations.

Direct correspondence to Professor Keith Nicholls, University of South Alabama, 5591 USA Drive North, Room 226, Mobile, AL 36688 〈〉.



To explore the impact Hurricane Katrina on citizens’ trust in government. Of primary interest is the relationship between poor governmental performance in the aftermath of the storm and low levels of political trust. In addition, levels of trust are related to respondents’ predictions regarding the time it will take their communities to recover.


Relationships are investigated through an analysis of data from a survey of residents in the Katrina-affected areas of Louisiana and Mississippi. For this initial exploration, bivariate analysis is used to elaborate relationships between measures of trust in government and the experiences and attitudes of survey respondents.


Analyses reveal interesting and significant relationships among the variables. Negative experiences during and after Hurricane Katrina are correlated with low levels of political trust. Also, low levels of trust are associated with pessimistic predictions of the time it will take communities to recover from the storm.


Given the importance of political trust for the long-term health of the political system, it is critical that governments at all levels enhance their effectiveness in dealing with such disasters.