Lacking Information or Condoning Corruption: When Will Voters Support Corrupt Politicians?
Journal of Comparative Politics, 2012
35 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 15 Aug 2015
Date Written: 2013
What explains persistent political corruption in many young democracies? Focusing on the effects of corruption on individual-level attitudes, we present two hypotheses for why citizens might be willing to cast ballots for corrupt politicians. On the one hand, voters may simply lack information about corruption. On the other hand, voters may knowingly overlook corruption when politicians otherwise perform well in office, delivering public goods to their constituents. We test these hypotheses using an embedded experiment in a nationwide survey in Brazil. The survey finds that the vast majority of voters express a willingness punish corrupt politicians, regardless of politician performance. High income voters form a partial exception to this overall rejection of corruption; they react less negatively to information about corruption and more strongly to information about competence than the general population. Our findings imply that specific, credible, and accessible information will lead most voters to punish corrupt politicians at the polls.
Keywords: corruption, government performance, Brazil, survey experiment
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