Bribes and Ballots: The Impact of Corruption on Voter Turnout in 75 Democracies
25 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 1 Oct 2009
Date Written: 2009
While officials involved in graft, bribery, extortion, nepotism, or patronage typically like to keep their deeds private, the fact that corruption can have serious effects in democracies is no secret. Numerous scholars have brought into the limelight the impact of corruption on a range of economic and political outcomes. One outcome that has received less attention, however, is voter turnout. Do high levels of corruption push electorates to avoid the polls or turn out in larger numbers? Though of great consequence to the corruption and voter turnout literature, few scholars in either area have tackled this question and none has done so with aggregate level data. Equipped with a new dataset, this paper engages in this endeavor through an analysis of 75 democratic states. Incorporating corruption into Blais’ baseline model for voter turnout, we make two substantial findings. First, the results reveal that corruption is negatively related to democratic electoral participation: as corruption increases, the percentage of people who go to the polls decreases. Second, this significant outcome exposes a major shortcoming in the baseline model and voter turnout literature in general: the omission of a relevant variable. In order to provide a more complete model, future analyses that seek to understand variations in turnout should include the variable of corruption.
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