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Looking beyond the Incumbent: The Effects of Exposing Corruption on Electoral Outcomes

  • Chong, Alberto

    (George Washington University)

  • De La O Torres, Ana L.

    (Yale University)

  • Karlan, Dean

    (Yale University)

  • Wantchekon, Leonard

    (Princeton University)

Does information about rampant political corruption increase electoral participation and the support for challenger parties? Democratic theory assumes that offering more information to voters will enhance electoral accountability. However, if there is consistent evidence suggesting that voters punish corrupt incumbents, it is unclear whether this translates into increased support for challengers and higher political participation. We provide experimental evidence that information about copious corruption not only decreases incumbent support in local elections in Mexico, but also decreases voter turnout, challengers' votes, and erodes voters' identification with the party of the corrupt incumbent. Our results suggest that while flows of information are necessary, they may be insufficient to improve political accountability, since voters may respond to information by withdrawing from the political process. We conclude with a discussion of the institutional contexts that could allow increased access to information to promote government accountability.

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Paper provided by Yale University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 94.

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Date of creation: Jan 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:yaleco:94
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  1. Timothy Besley & Rohini Pande & Vijayendra Rao, 2005. "Political Selection and the Quality of Government: Evidence from South India," STICERD - Political Economy and Public Policy Paper Series 08, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  2. Banerjee, Abhijit V. & Banerji, Rukmini & Duflo, Esther & Glennerster, Rachel & Khemani, Stuti, 2008. "Pitfalls of participatory programs : evidence from a randomized evaluation in education in India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4584, The World Bank.
  3. Joseph M. Johnson & W. Mark Crain, 2004. "Effects of Term Limits on Fiscal Performance: Evidence from Democratic Nations," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 119(1_2), pages 73-90, 04.
  4. Clausen, Bianca & Kraay, Aart & Nyiri, Zsolt, 2009. "Corruption and confidence in public institutions : evidence from a global survey," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5157, The World Bank.
  5. Ritva Reinikka & Jakob Svensson, 2005. "Fighting Corruption to Improve Schooling: Evidence from a Newspaper Campaign in Uganda," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 259-267, 04/05.
  6. James M. Snyder & David Strömberg, 2010. "Press Coverage and Political Accountability," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(2), pages 355-408, 04.
  7. Gingerich, Daniel W., 2009. "Corruption and Political Decay: Evidence from Bolivia," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 4(1), pages 1-34, March.
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