Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 60, Issue 5, pp 595–609 | Cite as

Throwing the rascals out? The electoral effects of corruption allegations and corruption scandals in Europe 1981–2011

  • Andreas BågenholmEmail author


Corrupt politicians have to a surprisingly great extent been found to go unpunished by the electorate. These findings are, however, drawn from case studies on a limited number of countries. This study, on the contrary, is based on a unique dataset from 215 parliamentary election campaigns in 32 European countries between 1981 and 2011, from which the electoral effects of corruption allegations and corruption scandals are analyzed. Information about the extent to which corruption allegations and scandals have occurred is gathered from election reports in several political science journals, and the electoral effects are measured in terms of the electoral performances—the difference in the share of votes between two elections—of all parties in government, as well as the main incumbent party, and the extent to which the governments survive the election. The control variables are GDP growth and unemployment rate the year preceding the election, the effective number of parliamentary and electoral parties, and the level of corruption. The results show that both corruption allegation and corruption scandals are significantly correlated with governmental performances on a bivariate basis; however, not with governmental change. When controlling for other factors, only corruption allegation has an independent effect on government performances. The study thus concludes—in line with previous research—that voters actually punish corrupt politicians, but to a quite limited extent.


Electoral Effect Corruption Perception Index Political Corruption Incumbent Party Election Period 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    Anduiza, E., Gallego, A., & Munoz, J. (2013). Turning a blind eye. Experimental evidence of partisan bias in attitudes toward corruption. Comparative Political Studies. doi: 10.1177/0010414013489081. 0010414013489081.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bågenholm, A. (2013). The electoral fate and policy impact of ‘anti-corruption parties’ in Central and Eastern Europe. Human Affairs, 23, 174–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Barberá, P. et al. (2012). The electoral consequences of political scandals in Spain. Paper presented at the XXII World Congress of Political Science, July 2012.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Chang, E. C. C., Golden, M. A., & Hill, S. J. (2010). Legislative malfeasance and political accountability. World Politics, 62, 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Della Porta, D., & Mény, Y. (1997). Democracy and corruption in Europe. London: Pinter.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Dimock, M. A., & Jacobson, G. C. (1995). Checks and choices: the house bank scandal’s impact on voters in 1992. Journal of Politics, 57, 4.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Eggers, A., & Fisher, A. C. (2011). Electoral accountability and the UK parliamentary expenses scandal: Did Voters Punish Corrupt MPs? Working Paper.
  8. 8.
    Electoral Studies, volumes 2–32Google Scholar
  9. 9.
  10. 10.
    Esaiasson, P., & Kumlin, S. (2012). Scandal fatigue? Scandal elections and satisfaction with democracy in Western Europe 1977–2007. British Journal of Political Research, 42, 263–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    European Journal of Political Research, volumes 22–51.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Freedom House.
  13. 13.
    Heidenheimer, A. J., & Johnston, M. (Eds.). (2009). Political corruption. Concepts and contexts (3rd ed.). New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Heywood, P. (1997). Political corruption: problems and perspectives. Political Studies, 45(3), 417–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Huberts, L. (1995). Western Europe and the public corruption. Experts views on attention, extent and strategies. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 3, 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
  17. 17.
    Jiménez, F., & Caínzos, M. (2006). How far and why do corruption scandals cost votes? In J. Garrand & J. L. Newell (Eds.), Scandals in the past and contemporary politics. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Klasnja, M. et al. (2012). Pocketbook vs. Sociotropic Corruption Voting. Paper presented at the QoG lunch seminar in Gothenburg May 11, 2012.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Kunicová, J., & Rose-Ackerman, S. (2005). Electoral rules and constitutional structures as constraints on corruption. British Journal of Political Science, 35, 573–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Lederman, D., Loayza, N., & Soares, R. R. (2005). Accountability and corruption. Political institutions matter. Economics and Politics, 17(1), 1–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Lewis-Beck, M. S., & Stegmaier, M. (2000). Economic determinats of electoral outcomes. Annual Review of Political Science, 3, 183–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Manzetti, L., & Wilson, C. (2007). Why do corrupt governments maintain public support? Comparative Political Studies, 40, 949–970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Müller-Rommel, F., et al. (2004). Party government in Central Eastern European democracies: a data collection (1990–2003). European Journal of Political Research, 43, 869–893.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Peters, J. G., & Welch, S. (1980). The effects of charges of corruption on voting behavior in congressional elections. American Political Science Review, 74, 3.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Reed, S. A. (1999). Punishing corruption: The response of the Japanese electorate to scandals. In O. Feldman (Ed.), Political psychology in Japan: Behind the nails which sometimes stick out (and Get Hammered Down). Commack: Nova Science.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Special Eurobarometer. (2009). 324 attitudes of Europeans towards corruption.
  27. 27.
    Special Eurobarometer. (2012). 374 corruption.
  28. 28.
    Transparency International.
  29. 29.
    Welch, S., & Hibbing, J. R. (1997). The effects of charges of corruption on voting behavior in congressional elections, 1982–1990. Journal of Politics, 59, 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    West European Politics, volumes 4–36.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Woldendorp, J., et al. (1998). Party government in 20 democracies: an update (1990–1995). European Journal of Political Research, 33, 125–164.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Quality of Government Institute & Department of Political ScienceUniversity of GothenburgGöteborgSweden

Personalised recommendations