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The electoral consequences of corruption scandals in Spain


Previous studies of the electoral consequences of corruption in Spanish local elections (Jiménez Revista de Investigaciones Políticas y Sociológicas, 6(2):43–76, 2007; Fernández-Vázquez and Rivero 2011, Consecuencias electorales de la corrupción, 20032007. Estudios de Progreso, Fundación Alternativas; Costas et al. European Journal of Political Economy: 28(4):469-484, 2012) have found that voters do not necessarily punish corrupt mayors. As has been pointed out in the comparative literature, the average loss of electoral support by corrupt incumbents is small and does not prevent their reelection most of the times (Jiménez and Caínzos 2006, How far and why do corruption scandals cost votes? In Garrard, J. and Newell, J. (eds.) Scandals in past and contemporary politics. Manchester: Manchester University Press). What remains unsolved, however, is the remarkable variability in this pattern. This article explores some of the micro-level variables that may mediate the effect of corruption scandal on the votes. We focus on three factors: ideological closeness to the incumbent party, political sophistication, and employment status. Our results provide only partial support for our hypotheses, suggesting that the effects of corruption are much more complex than what may seem at first sight.

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  1. 1.

    We are grateful to the CIS for providing access to a partially non-anonymous version of these surveys that allowed us to identify the municipality in which each respondent is registered to vote.

  2. 2.

    Those who did not vote due to technical reasons or to force majeure are also coded as non-voters. As a robustness check, we have replicated all our models coding these technical non-voters as missing values. Results do not show any systematic difference and are available upon request.

  3. 3.

    It must be mentioned that effects did not change when random effects by municipality were introduced. In fact, the negative effect of corruption on support for PSOE incumbents became even more strongly significant in the hierarchical model (p < 0.001).

  4. 4.

    Results of non-significant interaction effects are not shown here, but they are available upon request.

  5. 5.

    A similar effect is found for PSOE in 2007, but in this case it is not statistically significant.

  6. 6.

    Another exception is the PP in 2011. In this case, it is employed voters that seem more likely to support corrupt PP incumbents. However, the effect is hardly significant levels.


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Correspondence to Raúl Gómez.

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Riera, P., Barberá, P., Gómez, R. et al. The electoral consequences of corruption scandals in Spain. Crime Law Soc Change 60, 515–534 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10611-013-9479-1

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  • Vote Behavior
  • Local Election
  • Ideological Position
  • Political Corruption
  • Incumbent Party