How Corruption Investigations Undermine Regime Support: Evidence from China
36 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2017 Last revised: 5 Feb 2020
Date Written: February 4, 2020
Authoritarian leaders around the world often fight against corruption in an effort to win public support. Conventional wisdom holds that this strategy works because leaders can signal their benevolent intentions by removing corrupt officials. We argue that fighting against corruption can undermine regime support. By revealing scandals of corrupt officials, corruption investigations can alter citizens’ beliefs about public officials and lead to disenchantment about political institutions. We test this argument by examining how China’s current anti-corruption campaign has changed citizens’ public support for the government and the Communist Party. We analyze the results of two original surveys conducted before and during the campaign, and employ a difference-in-differences strategy to show that corruption investigations, at the margin, suppress respondents’ support for the central government and party. We also examine our respondents’ prior and posterior beliefs, and the results support our updating mechanism.
Keywords: Corruption Investigations, Regime Support, Prior Beliefs, Citizen Updating, China
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