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Does Politicization of Corruption Affect Voter Turnout?

Conference contribution
Authors Andreas Bågenholm
Stefan Dahlberg
Maria Solevid
Published in Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC, August 28-31 2014
Publication year 2014
Published at Quality of Government Institute (QoG)
Department of Political Science
Language en
Keywords Corruption, polticization, voter turnout, elections
Subject categories Political Science


This paper tests to what extent voters’ perceptions of corruption in the political system affect turnout and in particular if politicization of corruption in electoral campaigns affects that relationship. In previous research, some studies find that corruption increases turnout because voters either are bought off to participate or because they are mobilized on clean government issues, but the majority, more often country comparative studies, show that corruption decreases turnout because the presence of corruption corrodes the political system which leads to general cynicism, distrust and voter apathy. In this paper, we test a previously neglected factor, namely if politicization of corruption, defined as any party campaigning on anti-corruption issues, dampens or even reverses the presumed negative effects of perceiving political corruption on turnout. We argue that it is reasonable to believe that people’s willingness to participate will increase if parties address this important issue in electoral campaigns, as it will indicate party responsiveness to voter concerns. We apply multilevel modeling combining individual-level data and country-level data from 20 countries from the second module of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, country-level data from the Quality of Government Data Set and a unique data set on politicization of corruption issues in the election campaign. The findings suggest that politicization of corruption in the election to some extent dampens the negative effect of corruption perceptions on turnout, as the obtained positive interaction effect indicates that the negative effect of perceiving corruption as a problem on turnout is reduced in an election context where corruption is politicized. The results thus show that if corruption is not politicized, the individual corruption perceptions exert a significant negative effect on voting.

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