Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Gary Kelsey


US presidential approval of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding has been the subject of much research that largely has been inconclusive or contradictor as it relates to whether funds may have been distributed in a biased way through the use of presidential discretionary power. The purpose of this study was to explore if or to what degree US presidents acted in a potentially biased manner with the approval of FEMA approvals during election years in election battleground states. This study was an exploration of whether there was presidential political favoritism in approving FEMA funding from 1996-2012. The theoretical constructs for this study were group justification bias and social identity theory. Study data were obtained through freedom of information requests from FEMA for access to every gubernatorial request for FEMA aid from 1995-2012 resulting in 1137 records. Data were analyzed using chi-square as tests of association. By measuring the presidential discretionary choice of approvals or turndowns with other variables highlighted what, if any, associations existed. This enables a reasonable person to form their own perception on whether bias was present, or not, based on the results. A key finding illuminated an association between presidential party affiliation and public assistance (p = .005), 1 type of FEMA aid. The study did not, however, indicate any statistical association between the award of FEMA hazard mitigation funding and presidential bias. The positive social change implication stemming from this study includes information to policy makers regarding how FEMA aid is granted, which could assist in an evaluation of the FEMA aid process and approval in the future.