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Does Corruption Suppress Voter Turnout?

Journal article
Authors Stefan Dahlberg
Maria Solevid
Published in Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties
Volume 26
Issue 4
Pages 489-510
ISSN 1745-7289
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 489-510
Language en
Keywords corruption; corruption perceptions; turnout; electoral participation
Subject categories Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


This paper investigates to what extent voters’ perceptions of political corruption affect turnout. In previous research, two opposing views are put forward with regards to the relationship between corruption and turnout. On the one hand, corruption increases turnout because voters either are bought off to participate or because they are mobilized on clean government issues. On the other hand, corruption decreases turnout because presence of corruption corrodes the political system which leads to general cynicism, distrust and voter apathy. In this paper, we contribute to the existing research by adopting a multilevel approach to the relationship between corruption and turnout. We test the hypothesis that voters’ perceptions of corruption dampens turnout but that the effect is conditional upon the corruption context. We test our hypothesis by combining individual-level data and country-level data from 26 countries from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems and country-level data from the Quality of Government Data Set. The findings show that perceiving corruption negatively affects turnout, but only in countries with low to medium levels of system corruption.

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