Signs about mandatory evacuations in Florida before Hurricane Irma struck in 2017. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A new study finds that partisan conservative media led to "hurricane skepticism" among Trump voters before Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September 2017, discouraging evacuations.

Why it matters: As the divided response to the coronavirus pandemic underscores, how we view the world politically is increasingly determining how we view the threat of natural catastrophes. With extreme weather on the rise, that's a dangerous recipe.

What's happening: In a study published Friday in Science Advances, researchers from UCLA examined evacuation patterns for the hurricane using GPS phone location data from each affected voting precinct, which allowed them to compare the behaviors of likely Clinton and Trump voters living as closely as 500 ft. apart.

  • They found Florida residents who voted for Donald Trump were between 10% and 11% less likely than residents who voted for Hillary Clinton to obey evacuation orders.
  • That partisan gap was not present during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 or Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

Context: The researchers theorize the partisan gap seen in Irma was due at least in part to conservative media pushing hurricane skepticism before the storm hit, casting doubt on official predictions of its severity and the need to evacuate.

  • They cite a broadcast from Rush Limbaugh a few days before the storm's arrival, where the conservative radio host blamed government officials and the media for overhyping the hurricane to "advance this climate change agenda."
  • While such "hurricane trutherism" existed in pockets before Irma, the researchers noted an unprecedented spike in Google searches for skeptic content in the days leading up to Irma.
  • Irma ultimately caused 123 deaths in Florida, and it was the most expensive storm in the state's history.

Of note: There is evidence that at least some people in Oregon are resisting evacuations from the state's wildfires in part because of baseless rumors that left-wing activists are setting the fires so they can loot abandoned houses.

The bottom line: It's frightening to realize a growing number of Americans trust partisan media over authoritative sources — even in matters of life and death.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 13, 2020 - Science

In photos: Deadly storm Delta leaves thousands without power in Louisiana

People work to seal the openings of a damaged bar on Oct. 10 in Lake Charles, La. "Moderate to major river flooding will continue across the Calcasieu and Mermentau river basins in Louisiana through much of next week," the National Hurricane Center said on Oct. 11. Photo: Go Nakamura/Getty Images

Three deaths have been linked to former Hurricane Delta, as PowerOutage.us reported over 100,000 customers remained without power in Louisiana on Tuesday morning — four days after the storm made landfall in the state.

Details: Louisiana officials said Sunday a man, 86, died while refueling a generator in a shed that caught fire and a woman, 70, died in a fire "likely caused by a natural gas leak following damage." In the Florida Panhandle, Okaloosa County sheriff's office said a 19-year old Illinois tourist drowned Saturday "after being caught in a rip."

Quibi says it's shutting down

Photo: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Quibi, the mobile-only video subscription streaming service, is shutting down, the company announced Wednesday. The company said the decision was made to preserve shareholder equity.

Why it matters: Quibi had struggled to hit its subscriber growth targets amid the global pandemic. The app launched six months ago.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election.
  2. Economy: Why the stimulus delay isn't a crisis (yet).
  3. Health: New York reports most COVID cases since MayStudies show drop in coronavirus death rate — The next wave is gaining steam.
  4. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots — San Francisco public schools likely won't reopen before the end of the year.
  5. World: Spain becomes first nation in Western Europe to exceed 1 million cases.

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