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Public Perception of Corruption: The Prevalence and Moral Rejection of Corruption in Sweden

Authors Henrik Oscarsson
Monika Bauhr
Publisher University of Gothenburg
Place of publication Göteborg
Publication year 2011
Published at Department of Political Science
Language en
Keywords corruption perception transparency
Subject categories Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


This paper analyses citizens´ perception of corruption in Sweden along two dimensions: a) the spread of corruption among public officials, politicians, and businessmen, and b) the degree of acceptance for corrupt behaviors that violate the norm of impartiality, or in any other way represent the exercise of power in the grey zone between legal and directly illegal behavior. Building on a national representative sample from 2010, we show differences in perceptions of the occurrence and acceptance of corruption in different sectors, among different segments of the Swedish population, and for different types of corrupt behavior. Our results show differences between the private and public sector. Businessmen are perceived as more corrupt than public sector employees, which, in their turn, are perceived more corrupt than politicians. Similarly, Swedes believe that it is somewhat more acceptable for a private actor with public power to breach the norm of impartiality, the example being a private doctor letting a friend or close relative advance in the health care queue in comparison to a public sector doctor. We also show that there are differences in the tolerance towards different types of corruption in Swedish society, and that there are regional variations in the acceptance of corruption. In particular, younger persons and citizens of the city of Gothenburg show a somewhat more acceptable attitude towards corruption. The findings have implications for understanding the scope and effects of new public management reforms. They also have implications for understanding the effects of an increased exposure of corruption, and how exposure may gradually shift norms in society and make corruption more acceptable.

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