Political Behavior

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 109–130 | Cite as

Cushioning the Fall: Scandals, Economic Conditions, and Executive Approval

  • Ryan E. Carlin
  • Gregory J. LoveEmail author
  • Cecilia Martínez-Gallardo
Original Paper


Why do some presidents emerge from a scandal unscathed while for others it may lead to a crisis of legitimacy? This question is crucial to understanding the conditions under which elected leaders are held accountable. This study proposes a theory of conditional accountability by which the public most consistently punishes presidents for scandals when the economy is weak. Under strong economic conditions, scandals do not tarnish presidents’ public standing. To test the theory, we use a new dataset that includes measures of scandals, presidential approval, and the economy for 84 presidential administrations in 18 Latin American countries. Consistent with our expectations, scandals only appear to damage presidential approval when inflation and unemployment are high.


Scandals Executive approval Latin America Inflation Unemployment Behavior 



The authors acknowledge a great deal of support for this study. For feedback regarding its scope and approach we thank Jonathan Hartlyn, Gregg Johnson, Aníbal Pérez-Liñán, David Samuels, Matthew Singer, James Stimson and participants in the Comparative Politics Working Group at UNC. Data were graciously provided by Sergio Berenzstein, Taylor Boas, Ernesto Calvo, Julio Carrión, Francois Gélineau, Kirk Hawkins, Gregg Johnson, Beatriz Magaloni, Andrés Mejía Acosta, Jana Morgan, Observatorio Electoral of Universidad Diego Portales, Aníbal Pérez-Liñán, Matthew Singer, and Leslie Schwindt-Bayer. We are grateful for research assistance from Aries Arugay, Tyra Bouhamdan, Sarah Shair-Rosenfield, Alissandra Stoyan, Inés Valdez, and Harry Young. Financial support came in part from UNC’s University Research Council Grant #3-10059.

Supplementary material

11109_2014_9267_MOESM1_ESM.docx (790 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 789 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan E. Carlin
    • 1
  • Gregory J. Love
    • 2
    Email author
  • Cecilia Martínez-Gallardo
    • 3
  1. 1.Political Science DepartmentGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Political Science DepartmentUniversity of MississippiUniversityUSA
  3. 3.Political Science DepartmentUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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