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Does local public corruption generate partisan effects on polls?

Abstract

During the recent years of economic boom in Spain, political corruption at the local level boomed as well. In fact, it increased from 7 publicly denounced cases from 1999 to 2003 to at least 180 in the legislative period (2007–2011). In this paper, we explore this phenomenon in two related ways: how it has affected voting results and political participation, and whether the wrongdoing of local politicians has undermined the voters’ trust in them. We constructed a socioeconomic municipality database that matched polling results and corruption cases and then estimated a voting-share equation by difference-in-difference and matching techniques. Our results confirm that the voters’ attitude towards corruption is significantly different with respect to parties on the right or the left. In fact, after a prosecution in a local corruption case, abstention increases by an average 1.8 percentage points, left-parties’ voting share is reduced by approximately 2 percentage points, while right-parties’ share increases approximately 2 points.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See indicators and publications by Transparency International, World Bank, IMF, etc.

  2. 2.

    See Transparency International.

  3. 3.

    This author presents a more formal definition of this term as follows: “Corruption is the misuse of entrusted power for private gain; it is behavior which deviates from the formal duties of a given role because of private-regarding (personal, close family, private clique) pecuniary or status gains; or violate rules against the exercise of certain types of private regarding influence. This includes such behavior as bribery (use of a reward to pervert the judgment of a person in a position of trust); nepotism (bestowal of patronage by reason of ascriptive relationship rather than merit); and misappropriation (illegal appropriation of public resources for private-regarding uses)”. See Pellegrini [26], Chapter 2, page 17. This definition improves ones by Nye [25].

  4. 4.

    As we explain in section 2, the referenced papers use data from a foundation linked to the most important left-wing party in Spain.

  5. 5.

    Kaufmann [16] provides a summary of ideas about corruption.

  6. 6.

    Jiménez and Caínzos [15] include an interesting discussion of this question.

  7. 7.

    A survey experiment was conducted by Winter and Weitz-Shapiro [36] in Brazil. They found that voters tend to reject corrupt politicians when information about the corruption is delivered in a credible and accessible manner.

  8. 8.

    Recent local elections took place in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011. National elections took place in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2011.

  9. 9.

    Despite being one of the least corrupt democracies of the world, Sweden is also affected by local corruption (see [8]).

  10. 10.

    The Monarchy was affected by a case of corruption; the King’s son-in-law (Inaki Urdangarín, former international handball player) has been involved in a money laundering scandal through his nonprofit foundation.

  11. 11.

    Following the map of corruption cases by parties, divulged in Google, we have checked the news, related to each case, published in different national and regional newspapers.

  12. 12.

    The average number of people involved in a corruption case is 7.35. Since we do not have this information for all the cases, some of them are dropped out the sample.

  13. 13.

    This methodology was first proposed by Rubin [34], in a paper in which he established the potential-outcome framework for causal inference. The seminal paper here is Rosenbaum and Rubin [33].

  14. 14.

    Complementary log-log models are fequently used when the probability of an event is very large or very small. In our case we have close to 220 cases in a total of more than 8000 observations.

  15. 15.

    However we have to note that these authors states that “ (…) We do not mean to imply that, because voter turnout rates in corrupt states are higher, ceteris paribus, than in less corrupt ones, corruption promotes citizen participation and more democratic elections. Our hypothesis simply is that because political offices are worth more in jurisdictions where corruption rents are available, candidates seeking office and their support- ing organizations invest more effort in winning elections, effort that increases the number of voters who go to the polls on Election Day.”

  16. 16.

    We also estimated equation [2] with percentage of abstention as endogenous variable. In this case, average vote loss is 1.4 percentage points.

  17. 17.

    We have also estimated the general effect of local corruption on incumbent, as in Costas-Pérez et al. [4], to consider other local corruption cases (44 cases, as described in Table 1). The incumbent’s vote share reduces around 4 percentage points.

  18. 18.

    In a study of state-level corruption audits in Brazil, Pereiro et al. [28] found that corruption allegations made immediately prior to an election reduce a mayor’s probability of re-election, but allegations made public at a time prior to elections have no significant effect.

  19. 19.

    Note that the number of cases in 2003 is rather small, so we cannot draw any conclusions.

  20. 20.

    In total, we lose 21 cases that correspond to PSOE and 17 cases that correspond to PP.

  21. 21.

    We also test the results of Tables 7 and 8 with a SURE estimation (abstention and vote equations simultaneously) and by considering only votes to given parties (i.e. not considering nulls, blanks and abstention). This analysis introduced no significant changes.

  22. 22.

    These authors summarizese this hypothesis in a more comprehensive Brazilian sentence: “rouba, mas faz” (he robs, but he gets things done).

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Correspondence to Juan Luis Jiménez.

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Jiménez, J.L., García, C. Does local public corruption generate partisan effects on polls?. Crime Law Soc Change 69, 3–23 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10611-016-9671-1

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  • D73
  • P16