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Perceiving bad apples versus rotten trees: Evidence from the exposure of politician misbehavior in Colombia


  • Lucía Mendoza Mora


This paper studies the effects of disclosing information about politician misbehavior on trust in public institutions. I use news bulletins from the main anti-corruption agency in Colombia announcing disciplinary prosecutions against municipal mayors. I exploit the timing of the bulletin's publication as a source of variation on the information about the mayor's misbehavior. Using a difference-in-difference framework, I find that news of the prosecution led to increased trust in judicial institutions. However, the effects on confidence in the political system depend on whether citizens perceive the prosecuted mayor as an individual transgressor or as representative of political institutions that are persistently led by questionable individuals. In the former case, the bulletin's publication increased support for the political system. In the latter, it diminished trust in the elections, political parties and Congress. These findings highlight the sophistication of citizens' judgements in response to information on institutional performance.

Suggested Citation

  • Lucía Mendoza Mora, 2022. "Perceiving bad apples versus rotten trees: Evidence from the exposure of politician misbehavior in Colombia," Documentos CEDE 20515, Universidad de los Andes, Facultad de Economía, CEDE.
  • Handle: RePEc:col:000089:020515

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Trust; Public Institutions; Corruption;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General

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