Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


French, P. Edward

Committee Member

Cosby, Arthur G.

Committee Member

Stanisevski, Dragan

Committee Member

Emison, Gerald A.

Committee Member

Shaffer, Stephen D.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Public Policy and Administration

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Political Science and Public Administration


Societal risks to disasters are continually increasing and the scope of policy issues surrounding emergency management in the United States remains inundated with a number of challenges. Examining the connection between social capital and political trust is paramount as prior studies have documented that if communal networks are disrupted, there will be a lasting negative impact upon the community. As such, there are specific events that cause added strain which make certain time periods for examining levels of resiliency relevant. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred on April 20, 2010, represents a large-scale, technological disaster. Not only was there a loss of human life, but a number of social and political impacts also exist with the oil having spewed out into the water. For instance, residents living along the Northern Gulf Coast do represent a heterogeneous population, which span across several geographical boundaries and represent a diverse range of cultures. Further, the economic interests of impacted residents were also likely torn between the oil and gas industry and the fishing and seafood industry, given that many individuals may have been concurrently employed full-time as oil rig workers and supplemented their financial income and/or quality of life as commercial fishermen. The goal of this research is to investigate how social capital and political trust significantly affect communal resiliency among those impacted by the oil spill. Results from this study will extend the limited understanding on the role of disaster responsibility in emergency management. Findings reveal that group belonging as related to race, education, and income significantly impact quality of life and trust in government which, in turn, influences the perception of disaster responsibility. Specifically, when trust goes down, a higher percentage of respondents indicate that the victims themselves should assume the majority of responsibility for taking care of themselves and their families following a disaster. Perhaps, individuals who are the least trusting or most cynical of the federal government feel that victims are better off taking care of themselves and their families in the aftermath of disaster given the storied history of disaster response.