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Insider or Outsider? Grand Corruption and Electoral Accountability

Journal article
Authors Monika Bauhr
Nicholas Charron
Published in Comparative Political Studies
Volume 51
Issue 4
Pages 415-446
ISSN 0010-4140
Publication year 2018
Published at Quality of Government Institute (QoG)
Department of Political Science
Pages 415-446
Language en
Keywords corruption and patronage, elections, public opinion, voting behavior, accountability, quality of democracy
Subject categories Political Science


While democratic accountability is widely expected to reduce corruption, citizens to a surprisingly large extent opt to forgo their right to protest and voice complaints, and refrain from using their electoral right to punish corrupt politicians. This article examines how grand corruption and elite collusion influence electoral accountability, in particular citizens’ willingness to punish corrupt incumbents. Using new regional-level data across 21 European countries, we provide clear empirical evidence that the level of societal grand corruption in which a voter finds herself systematically affects how she responds to a political corruption scandal. Grand corruption increases loyalty to corrupt politicians, demobilizes the citizenry, and crafts a deep divide between insiders, or potential beneficiaries of the system, and outsiders, left on the sidelines of the distribution of benefits. This explains why outsiders fail to channel their discontent into effective electoral punishment, and thereby how corruption undermines democratic accountability.

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