The Consequences of Political Cynicism: How Cynicism Shapes Citizens’ Reactions to Political Scandals
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This paper argues cynicism toward elected officials colors how individuals in the mass public interpret information about political scandals. Specifically, citizens rely on prior levels of cynicism toward elected officials when assessing new information about potential political malfeasance. Drawing on panel data surrounding two prominent political scandals, this paper demonstrates prior levels of cynicism shape individuals’ interpretations of information about scandals, but cynicism does not affect the amount of attention individuals pay to scandals. Ultimately, the results shed light on individual-level variation in response to scandals, and suggest expressed cynicism toward politicians is a politically consequential individual-level attitude that affects whether or not political leaders can survive ethical transgressions.