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

  • Alberto Chong


    (George Washington University)

  • Ana L. De La O


    (Yale University)

  • Dean Karlan


    (Yale University)

  • Leonard Wantchekon


    (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' identifcation 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 Economic Growth Center, Yale University in its series Working Papers with number 1005.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:1005
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  1. Timothy Besley & Rohini Pande & Vijayendra Rao, 2005. "Political Selection and the Quality ofGovernment: Evidence from South India," STICERD - Development Economics Papers - From 2008 this series has been superseded by Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers 44, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  2. Abhijit Banerjee & Rukmini Banerji & Esther Duflo & Rachel Glennerster & Stuti Khemani, 2008. "Pitfalls of Participatory Programs: Evidence From a Randomized Evaluation in Education in India," NBER Working Papers 14311, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2002. "The Political Economy of Government Responsiveness: Theory and Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1415-1451.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Bianca Clausen & Aart Kraay & Zsolt Nyiri, 2011. "Corruption and Confidence in Public Institutions: Evidence from a Global Survey," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 25(2), pages 212-249.
  7. 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.
  8. 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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