Article

Electoral Accountability and the UK Parliamentary Expenses Scandal: Did Voters Punish Corrupt MPs?

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract

We assess the electoral impact of the 2009 UK parliamentary expenses scandal, focusing on whether MPs who were implicated in the scandal retired at a higher rate or received lower electoral support in the 2010 general election than those who were not. We nd that implication in the scandal led to both a higher retirement rate and a lower vote share for implicated MPs, but that retirement decisions and voting decisions seem to have depended on different factors: MPs who were more profligate expensers retired at a higher rate, while those whose abuses were viewed as more scandalous were punished by voters. Our overall results show that the expenses scandal had a modest impact on constituency-level outcomes compared to expectations and to similar cases in other countries; this is consistent with existing work on British voters as well as the broader insight that voters' ability to punish corrupt behavior depends on institutional factors like the electoral system and separation of powers.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

... He also argues that governments tend to fall more frequently when corruption charges are made against them, again under control for the level of corruption in the country. Other authors take a more sceptical approach: under certain conditions, politicians facing corrupt allegations during elections might see their share of the vote reduced, but not to the extent of losing an election ( [59]: 194; [33,36,140]). Chang et al. [24], in their chronological study of general elections in Italy, point out that, historically, charges of malfeasance are insufficient to curtail the probability of reelection. However, over time, this situation changed. ...
... Electoral punishment of corruption has been studied through a variety of perspectives, focusing on different explanatory variables and using diverse methodologies to test them. Single country analyses-US [33,121], UK [36], Japan [110], Italy [24], Spain [116]-still dominate this emerging area of studies, but comparative studies (over time and across countries) have increased in recent years [13], due to a more systematic collection and treatment of electoral data and the inclusion of corruption in post-election surveys. ...
... The difficulty lies precisely in ensuring that power is bounded by and subject to law, not only in formal but also substantive terms. According to Guillermo O'Donnell, in a democracy, the rule of law has to be "democratic" ([93]: [35][36]. This means two things: the existence of a set of laws that grant and protect political and civil rights of citizens and a functioning legal system that lives up to their expectations. ...
Article
Full-text available
One of the intriguing phenomena in democracy is the fact that politicians involved in, accused of or condemned for corruption in a court of law get re-elected by their constituents. In some cases, corruption does not seem to negatively affect the development of political careers. In this introductory article, we try to develop a multidimensional framework for analysing electoral punishment of corruption. First, we will look into various studies on electoral punishment and highlight their advancements and shortcomings. Then, we will propose a more dynamic account of electoral punishment of corruption that takes into account individual as well as macro level explanations. Finally, we will disaggregate these two analytical dimensions into various explanatory factors.
... Information is a necessary, though not a sufficient, condition for citizens to punish corrupt politicians (Chong et al. 2015;de Figueiredo, Hidalgo, and Kasahara 2010), and weak institutions may also reduce the electoral consequences of corruption (Manzetti and Wilson 2007). These explanations, however, do not account for the fact that corruption is not punished harshly in advanced industrial democracies that have abundant information and strong institutions such as the US (Dimock and Jacobson 1995;Rundquist, Strom, and Peters 1977), the UK (Eggers and Fisher 2011), Japan (Reed 1999), Italy (Chang, Golden and Hill 2010) and Spain (Rivero- Rodriguez and Fernandez-Vazquez 2011;Costas-Pérez, Solé-Ollé, and Sorribas-Navarro 2012). ...
... In the UK, Eggers and Fisher assessed the electoral impact of the 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal, focusing on whether MPs who were involved in the scandal retired at a higher rate or received lower electoral support in the 2010 general election than those who were not involved in the scandal. While involvement in the expenses scandal led to a higher retirement rate and a lower vote share, the results suggest that the scandal had only a small impact on constituency-level electoral outcomes (Eggers and Fisher 2011). Similarly, Reed found that in Japan legislators indicted for corruption only lost a few percentage points of the vote share and being convicted actually increased their share of the vote (Reed 1999). ...
Article
Full-text available
Corruption cases have limited electoral consequences in many countries. Why do voters often fail to punish corrupt politicians at the polls? Previous research has focused on the role of lack of information, weak institutions and partisanship in explaining this phenomenon. In this paper, we propose three micro-mechanisms that can help understand why voters support corrupt mayors even in contexts with high information and strong institutions: implicit exchange (good performance can make up for corruption), credibility of information (accusations from opposition parties are not credible) and the lack of credible alternatives (the belief that all politicians are corrupt). We test these mechanisms using three survey experiments conducted in Catalonia. Our results suggest that implicit exchange and credibility of information help explain voters’ support for corrupt politicians.
... There is almost no work on issue-based sanctioning outside the US, but there has been extensive research on valence-based sanctioning in systems with stronger parties, covering not only incumbency (Lee 2008;Smith 2013) and scandals (Banducci and Karp 1994;Basinger 2013;Eggers and Fisher 2011) but also signs of effort (Sulkin, Testa, and Usry 2015), independentmindedness (Campbell et al. 2019;Kam 2009, 103-29;Vivyan and Wagner 2012), and other positively valued attributes. This research has identified substantively meaningful effects in both the US and the UK. ...
... The effects are comparable to those of roll-call congruence in US state legislatures given a similar onestandard-deviation shift (Rogers 2017). Finally, the aggregate consequences are substantially smaller than the estimated effect of being implicated in the 2007 parliamentary expenses scandal (Eggers and Fisher 2011). This illustrates well the potential differences in the magnitudes of valence effects (which operate on all voters) and congruence effects (which operate only on the congruent). ...
Article
Full-text available
For incumbents to be accountable for their issue stances, voters must sanction incumbents whose positions are “out of step” with their own. We test the electoral accountability of British legislators for their stance on Brexit. We find that there is very limited issue accountability. Individuals who disagreed with their representative’s stance on Brexit were 3 percentage points less likely to vote for them. The aggregate consequences of these individual effects are limited. A one-standard-deviation increase in the proportion of constituents agreeing with their incumbent’s Brexit stance is associated with an increase of 0.53 percentage points in incumbent vote share. These effects are one and a half times larger when the main challenger has a different Brexit stance to the incumbent. A follow-up survey of Members of Parliament (MPs) shows that MPs’ estimates of the effects of congruence are similar in magnitude. Our findings suggest that issue accountability is conditional in nature and limited in magnitude even for an issue such as Brexit, which should be maximally amenable to such effects.
... 63). This paradox, that puts democratic accountability into question, has been observed in different countries and contexts: the US (Rundquist et al, 1977;Dimock and Jacobson, 1995), the UK (Eggers & Fisher, 2011), Japan (Reed, 1999), Italy (Chang, Golden and Hill, 2010), Spain (Rivero-Rodriguez and Fernandez-Vazquez, 2011). ...
... Dimock and Jacobson (1995) show that although there was a 5% reduction in the incumbents share of the vote when affected by a House of Representatives corruption scandal in 1992, the survival rate was still 80% compared to a 98% of those not affected, an impressive rate in spite of the important number of prior strategic retirements Groseclose and Krehbiel (1994). Eggers & Fisher (2011) assessed the electoral impact of the 2009 UK parliamentary expenses scandal, focusing on whether MPs who were implicated in the scandal retired at a higher rate or received lower electoral support in the 2010 general election than those who were not. They found that implication in the scandal led to a higher retirement rate and a lower vote share for implicated MPs. ...
... A significant number of other cases seem however to support the opposite conjecture that voters are motivated by their final expected payoffs or care more about the competence of candidates rather than the honesty. For instance, many of the parliamentarians who were involved in the 2009 UK parliamentary expenses scandal 5 held their seats in the 2010 general elections and experienced only a marginal drop in voters' support (about 1.5% on average; Eggers and Fischer, 2011). In Brazil, the former Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva won the 2006 general elections regardless of the corruption scandals that plagued his previous administration and after a mandate characterized by steady economic growth and decrease in poverty for Brazil (Winters and Weitz-Shapiro, 2013). ...
Article
We set up an experiment to measure voter preferences trade-offs between competence and honesty. We measure the competence and honesty of candidates by asking them to work on a real effort task and decide whether to report truthfully or not the value of their work. In the first stage, the earnings are the result of the competence and honesty of one randomly selected participant. In the second stage, subjects can select who will determine their earnings based on the fi rst stage's competence and honesty of the alternative candidates. We find that most voters tend to have a bias towards caring about honesty even when this results in lower payoffs.
... The parliament as an institution is empowered by the constitution in most countries to monitor the implementation of budgets and government expenditure, in its role of oversight of executive functions, and should serve as a check and balance option. Perhaps this is not often the case as the revelations of the MPs' expenses scandal in the UK recently suggests that corruption may be perpetrated in parliament by the lawmakers (Eggers and Fisher, 2011;Daniel and Flew, 2010). The legislature given this scenario becomes lacking in the political will to address the issue of corruption head-on as the politics of bribery and kickbacks commonly referred to as 'Ghana must go bags' in Nigeria may suggest (Dike, 2005;Danjibo and Oladeji, 2007). ...
Article
Literature is rife on the dissatisfaction of the Nigerian public on the poor performance of political institutions such as the National Assembly of Nigeria (NASS). However, e-parliaments mostly in countries of America and Europe show legislators have considerably used Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to form new relationships and engagement of the public to participate in the performance of legislative functions, fight corruption, and strengthen representative democracy. However, this does not appear to be the case in the NASS. This study explores the main factors of e-parliament adoption for anti-corruption and finds out the perceptions and attitude of legislators and citizens of the phenomenon. The theoretical lens is a modified Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) by Venkatesh et al. (2003). A qualitative approach using in-depth interviews is employed. A sample of five principal officers of the NASS and five members of the public is taken. The study findings reflect on the theory of technology adoption.
... Even though voters tend to hold negative attitudes toward corruption, evidence of the electoral impunity of corrupt governments and politicians abound throughout the world. Studies conducted in the United States (Dimock and Jacobson 1995;Peters and Welch 1980), Italy (Chang, Golden, and Hill 2010), the United Kingdom (Eggers and Fisher 2011;Pattie and Johnston 2009), and Spain (Costas, Sole-Olle, and Sorribas Navarro 2010;Rivero Rodriguez and Fernandez Vazquez 2011), for example, document the limited electoral punishment corrupt governments often face. ...
Article
Full-text available
To hold politicians accountable for corrupt practices, voters must rely on reports from third parties and view these accusation sources as credible. We conducted a survey experiment varying sources for corruption accusations and measuring citizens’ evaluations of political candidates in Colombia. Consistent with prior surveys, we find that respondents trust newspapers more than the judiciary or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Corruption accusations coming from the leading national newspaper drive down levels of support and trust for corrupt politicians relative to identical accusations made against identical candidates by NGOs and the judiciary. Our results also indicate that people with lower levels of education were more responsive than more educated individuals to corruption accusations coming from newspapers when compared to those coming from the judiciary or an NGO. Perceptions of candidate competence did not move with perceived trustworthiness.
... And how did press coverage influence these effects? Three recent studies on the 2009 expense scandal by political scientists are informative (Eggers and Fisher, 2011;Pattie and Johnston, 2012;Vivyan, Wagner, and Tarlov, 2012). Using data from the 2010 British Election Study, both Pattie and Johnston (2012) and Vivyan, Wagner, and Tarlov (2012) reported that over 90 percent of British voters surveyed just before the 2010 election were aware of the expense scandal. ...
Article
Full-text available
Although the benefits of high status are well documented, in this research we explore the potential hazards associated with high status that have increasingly been implicated in recent studies. Organizational research suggests two such hazards: (1) opportunistic behaviors by elites that eventually lead to sanctions and (2) the targeting of elites by various audiences such that they are held more accountable than their lower-status counterparts for similar offenses. Our objective was to disentangle these two explanations in the context of an organizational scandal involving the Members of the British Parliament (MPs) whose annual expense claims were unexpectedly exposed in a well-known 2009 scandal. We find that high-status MPs were not more likely to abuse the expense system than were lower-status MPs, but they were more likely to be targeted by the press and voters for their inappropriate expense claims. As a consequence, high-status MPs were significantly more likely than non-elite MPs to exit Parliament when they had high levels of inappropriate expense claims. Elite MPs who were not implicated in the scandal, however, were far more likely to remain in Parliament than their lower-status counterparts. Our results also suggest that media coverage of the expense incident by British newspapers played a significant role in shaping social reactions to the scandal.
... For example, there is burgeoning literature on electoral vertical accountability (i.e. elections as an opportunity to sanction corrupt politicians) and its mixed empirical track record in reducing corruption [3,12,41]. Work on the role of the legislature in curbing corruption is more limited, apart from a recent cross-national study using the new V-Dem dataset [13] which yields empirical support for the hypothesis that executive accountability through an empowered legislature matters for fighting corruption. There is strong research on the role of societal accountability mechanisms, largely defined as an active civil society and media, in keeping a check on corruption [7,14,23,29,30,46]. ...
Article
Full-text available
It is widely presumed that preventing or addressing widespread corruption requires effective public institutions, supplemented by non-state actors, in a system of interlocking and interlinked institutions and actors (anti-corruption checks and balances). However there has been little evidence of the interactions and interdependencies between anticorruption mechanisms to enable empirical testing of theories that such institutionalised networks function as such, or have any relationship with reduced corruption. We use assessments of the performance of accountability roles of a diversity of institutions, on 19 indicators, in 38 countries using the National Integrity System approach, to test for the relationships between horizontal and vertical accountability, and the importance of each – and accountability in general – for policy and institutional reforms aimed at curbing corruption. We show that horizontal and vertical accountability are each measurable constructs, whose weakness or strength does tend to correlate; and that while causation is beyond the scope of this analysis, this accountability role performance also correlates separately and jointly with independent measures of corruption control. These results affirm the potential for holistic, country-based qualitative assessments of networked integrity institutions, as pioneered by the NIS approach, to deliver stronger evidence of how reforms to prevent and suppress corruption can be better targeted.
... While the empirical evidence for whether the electorate punishes corrupt politicians remains mixed (see, for example, Bågenholm, 2013;Basinger, 2013;Crisp, Olivella, Potter, & Mishler, 2014), several case studies suggest that voters' punishment of corrupt politicians remains limited. For instance, evidence from the United States (Welch & Hibbing, 1997), Brazil (Ferraz & Finan, 2008), Italy (Chang et al., 2010), the United Kingdom (Eggers & Fisher, 2011), and Mexico (Chong, De La O, Karlan, & Wantchekon, 2015) suggests that candidates are punished to only a very limited extent for being implicated in corruption scandals. 1 An emerging literature seeks explanations for the shortcomings of electoral and societal accountability and for why it fails to contain corruption. ...
Article
Full-text available
While democratic accountability is widely expected to reduce corruption, citizens to a surprisingly large extent opt to forgo their right to protest and voice complaints, and refrain from using their electoral right to punish corrupt politicians. This article examines how grand corruption and elite collusion influence electoral accountability, in particular citizens’ willingness to punish corrupt incumbents. Using new regional-level data across 21 European countries, we provide clear empirical evidence that the level of societal grand corruption in which a voter finds herself systematically affects how she responds to a political corruption scandal. Grand corruption increases loyalty to corrupt politicians, demobilizes the citizenry, and crafts a deep divide between insiders, or potential beneficiaries of the system, and outsiders, left on the sidelines of the distribution of benefits. This explains why outsiders fail to channel their discontent into effective electoral punishment, and thereby how corruption undermines democratic accountability.
Article
The impact of corruption charges on the electoral performance of parties is conditioned by specific institutional factors. This article shows the extent to which the effects of political corruption depend on the control that party leaders exercise over the ballot. It is argued that voters might abstain or support other lists if they cannot select individual candidates to revitalize the reputation of the political party. Employing data on judicial investigations in Italy from 1983 to 2013, we provide evidence of the role of electoral rules and intra-party xcandidate selection in shaping the relationship between corruption and voters’ behaviour. Parties implicated in corruption or related crimes experience a loss of votes when they compete under a closed list formula or when the candidate selection process is strongly centralized.
Article
Why do repeated elections often fail to curb governmental corruption, even in full democracies? While much of the comparative literature on corruption focuses on the institutional features of democracies, this article argues that party system institutionalization is an additional and neglected factor in explaining why corruption may persist in the context of democratic elections. Under-institutionalized party systems impede accountability. They compromise the capacity of voters to attribute responsibility and undermine electoral co-ordination to punish incumbents for corruption. These expectations are tested by combining a controlled comparative study of eighty democracies around the world with an examination of the causal process in a case study of Panama. The findings suggest that party system institutionalization powerfully shapes the scope for governmental corruption.
Thesis
On the basis of the comparison of conflict of interest regulation in Great Britain, France and Sweden, this dissertation set out to understand how anti-corruption policy became a case of what I have termed ‘divergent convergence’. Indeed, while conflict of interest regulation in the three countries grew increasingly alike between the 1990s and the 2010s with the adoption of similar instruments (public interest registers and codes of conduct), these instruments were actually implemented in strikingly different ways in the three contexts, resulting in significant divergence in practice. To do so, it uses a theoretical framework grounded in constructivist institutionalism and building on the notion of policy translation, drawing on primary empirical materials from archives, a range of documentary sources (official, media and civil society, national and international), participant observation and semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders in the making of conflict of interest regulation. The dissertation shows that policy convergence is here the result of the emulation of powerful pioneers in the Anglosphere reinforced by the emergence of a transnational anti-corruption community. International policy brokers created institutional tools to encourage anti-corruption reforms reflecting their policy preferences in member-states. They also shaped the cognitive framework of domestic policy-making through knowledge production and argumentation. This research however also shows that policies are translated as they travel into new political contexts and institutions. Intermediaries and national policy-makers indeed transform international templates as they put flesh on them, leading not to a linear process of convergence (of conflict of interest regulation) but to a more complex ‘divergent convergence’.
Article
In this paper, I study whether TV coverage helps voters punish politicians involved in a scandal. Specifically, I compare the vote shares of U.S. senators implicated in scandals from 1970 through 2000 in two different types of media markets: in-state and out-of-state. An in-state media market is centered in a given state, and an out-of-state is located outside a given state. Therefore, the media consumers in an out-of-state media market receive news contents that focus on neighboring states’ politicians. I find that U.S. senators implicated in scandals receive smaller vote share in in-state media markets. The results suggest that better access to political news helps voters make more informed decisions.
Article
Studies interested in the cross-national levels of corruption have concluded that specific institutional characteristics drive the aggregate variation. In countries with high institutional clarity and plurality electoral systems, corruption tends to be lower since increased voter monitoring and clarity of responsibility incentivise politicians to deliver virtuous policies. However, the underlying accountability mechanism has never been tested at the individual level. It is still unclear whether (1) voters do place voting weights on corruption, and (2) whether these weights vary in response to aggregate institutional characteristics. In this article, survey data from 23 democracies is used to put the accountability micro-mechanism to this test. While there is some evidence that voters do vote on the basis of corruption, the moderating effect of institutional characteristics is not as strong as previously thought.
Article
A growing literature on political accountability focuses on the extent to which voters electorally punish politicians when provided with credible negative information about politicians’ actions. Whether politicians respond to information provision by changing their behavior—thus appearing accountable to voters—is an integral part of this puzzle but has received comparatively little attention. I address this gap by exploiting an unforeseen decision by the Pakistani government to publicly release legislators’ past income tax payments, and measure the effect of the information provision on their tax payments in the following year. Using new data on politicians’ asset ownership and tax payments in a difference-in-differences research design, I provide strong evidence that the pressure to decrease tax evasion was highest for competitively and directly elected legislators. These heterogeneous effects are not explained by differences between legislators or electoral constituencies, supporting the hypothesis that electoral incentives condition legislator responsiveness to information shocks.
Article
While retrospective models of voting posit that voters should “vote the rascals out”, a wave of recent research has found that this is rarely the case. We investigate this question in a context in which many sitting politicians have recently been indicted on corruption charges – the municipal level in Romania, a surprisingly under-researched case in this sub-field. Romania provides a good case for electoral accountability. Not only do Romanians deeply detest corruption, the party system also contains many parties that would make it easy for voters to switch from a corrupt to a cleaner alternative. We collected an original data register of electoral and socio-political data on roughly 3200 localities together with all cases of corruption charges published by the Romanian anti-corruption agency, the Direcţia Naţională Anticorupţie (DNA), accounting for magnitude and timing of the scandal as well as the judicial outcome for the indicted mayor. In all, we find that 81 sitting mayors elected in 2012 were charged with corruption prior to the 2016 election. We test the electoral impact of corruption on the incumbent mayors on four outcomes indicating electoral accountability commonly used in the literature – retirement, vote share compared to the previous election, voter turnout, and reelection using difference and difference and a pairwise matching designs, inter alia. The results show that Romanians do punish their corrupt incumbent mayors to a quite high extent compared to the clean mayors. However, due to the large vote margins, the punishment is not severe enough to make them lose more often than similar “clean‟ mayors, although they tend to not run for re-election at much higher rates. Turnout is unaffected by corruption at the municipal level. In line with previous results, we thus find a certain amount of electoral accountability, but not to the extent that the ‘rascals are thrown out’.
Article
Reelection of corrupted politicians points to a problem of democratic accountability. Voters do have the chance to ‘throw the rascals out’, but they do not take it. Employing a survey experiment, we test two popular explanations of why Greek voters fail to effectively sanction corrupt politicians. One is related to the distorting effects of psychological attachment to parties and the second to tradeoffs that seem to come into play when voters weigh the prevalence of corruption against other tangible benefits that they receive from governments and parties, such as lower taxes or clientelistic exchanges. Our findings suggest that collective benefits, such as cutting taxes, outweigh the costs of tolerating political corruption. On the contrary, exclusive provision of goods to specific voters, such as in the case of clientelistic exchanges, seems to be negatively related to support for a corrupt politician and therefore should rather not be regarded as a source of tolerance to corruption, at least not in present time Greece.
Article
Full-text available
This paper studies the effects of corruption on voting behavior in the local and general elections, investigating how the voters’ response to corruption differs in these elections. We have two main research questions: (i) how does the electoral punishment for corruption (in terms of lower vote shares) differs in local and general elections, and (ii) how does nominating a new candidate, instead of re-nominating the corrupt incumbent, affect the vote share of a political party in local and general elections. To collect data to answer these questions, we designed a survey using the vignette method, and administered it to a sample of 3640 individuals in 28 provinces determined according to the second-level Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS). Our first finding is that the effect of corruption on voting behavior in the local elections is smaller than that in the general elections. That is, compared to the general elections, voters care less about corruption in the local elections. We also find that, nominating another candidate instead of re-nominating a corrupt incumbent has a positive effect on the vote share of a political party in both the general and local elections. But, the increase in the vote share is greater in the general elections than in the local elections. We also analyzed whether these results depend on the demographic characteristics of the voters such as gender, age, education level, income level, employment status, and the geographical region that the voter lives. We find that it does.
Article
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.
Article
I analyze the link between partisan alignment of local politicians and the incidence of political corruption, using novel hand-collected data on local political corruption in Ghana. The empirical analysis, based on 205 districts observed over the period 2013–2018, suggests significantly lower levels of political corruption in aligned districts. Partisan alignment reduces corruption by 1.9 percentage points, equivalent to about half of the mean-level in non-aligned districts. In line with political ambition theory, I attribute this result to local politicians aligned with the national government having incentives to control fiscal irregularities within their localities in order to appease their national party leaders and preserve their party’s reputation. Alternative explanations are considered through empirical means and can be excluded. The estimated effect is more pronounced in districts that (i) are party strongholds, (ii) have better financial endowments, and (iii) have female local parliamentarians. It appears that political centralization and a politicized bureaucracy, as observed in Ghana, are important explanations for this finding.
Article
Full-text available
Abstract will be provided by author.
Article
Full-text available
Economic conditions shape election outcomes in the world's democracies. Good times keep parties in office, bad times cast them out. This proposition is robust, as the voluminous body of research reviewed here demonstrates. The strong findings at the macro level are founded on the economic voter, who holds the government responsible for economic performance, rewarding or punishing it at the ballot box. Although voters do not look exclusively at economic issues, they generally weigh those more heavily than any others, regardless of the democracy they vote in.
Article
Full-text available
Fifteen years ago, Peters and Welch investigated the effects of corruption charges on the outcomes of U.S. House elections. Their evidence from 1968 to 1978 indicated that charges generally produced a decline in vote share of between 6% and 11%, depending upon the nature of the charge. Morals violations were the most consequential for candidates and conflict of interest the least. Continuing changes in American politics and the nature of campaigns have made corruption charges even more common and, indeed, central to many races. In the following research note, we explore whether the changing nature of congressional campaigns has altered the magnitude of the effects of corruption charges on congressional election outcomes.
Article
Full-text available
This paper studies the determinants of MPs' expense claims and of their attendance at Parliamentary meetings. Using a multiple regression framework, we correlate the expenses with three sets of variables: constituency characteristics, political variables, and individual characteristics. We then look at the ratio of parliamentary expenses claimed to votes cast in Parliament as a crude measure of value for money. This take on the data provides a somewhat benign view of the usage of expense claims. We use the results to reflect on two views of the motivation of MPs-the public choice view and the public service view. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
Article
Full-text available
Does information irrelevant to government performance affect voting behavior? If so, how does this help us understand the mechanisms underlying voters' retrospective assessments of candidates' performance in office? To precisely test for the effects of irrelevant information, we explore the electoral impact of local college football games just before an election, irrelevant events that government has nothing to do with and for which no government response would be expected. We find that a win in the 10 d before Election Day causes the incumbent to receive an additional 1.61 percentage points of the vote in Senate, gubernatorial, and presidential elections, with the effect being larger for teams with stronger fan support. In addition to conducting placebo tests based on postelection games, we demonstrate these effects by using the betting market's estimate of a team's probability of winning the game before it occurs to isolate the surprise component of game outcomes. We corroborate these aggregate-level results with a survey that we conducted during the 2009 NCAA men's college basketball tournament, where we find that surprising wins and losses affect presidential approval. An experiment embedded within the survey also indicates that personal well-being may influence voting decisions on a subconscious level. We find that making people more aware of the reasons for their current state of mind reduces the effect that irrelevant events have on their opinions. These findings underscore the subtle power of irrelevant events in shaping important real-world decisions and suggest ways in which decision making can be improved.
Article
Full-text available
This paper uses publicly released audit reports to study the effects of disclosing information about corruption practices on electoral accountability. In 2003, as part of an anticorruption program, Brazil's federal government began to select municipalities at random to audit their expenditures of federally transferred funds. The findings of these audits were then made publicly available and disseminated to media sources. Using a data set on corruption constructed from the audit reports, we compare the electoral outcomes of municipalities audited before versus after the 2004 elections, with the same levels of reported corruption. We show that the release of the audit outcomes had a significant impact on incumbents' electoral performance, and that these effects were more pronounced in municipalities where local radio was present to divulge the information. Our findings highlight the value of having a more informed electorate and the role played by local media in enhancing political selection.
Article
Full-text available
This paper examines whether access to information enhances political accountability. Based upon the results of Brazil’s recent anti-corruption program that randomly audits municipal expenditures of federally-transferred funds, it estimates the effects of the disclosure of local government corruption practices upon the re-election success of incumbent mayors. Comparing municipalities audited before and after the elections, we show that the audit policy reduced the incumbent’s likelihood of re-election by approximately 20 percent, and was more pronounced in municipalities with radio stations. These findings highlight the value of information and the role of the media in reducing informational asymmetries in the political process.
Article
This paper concerns the relationship between voters and corrupt politicians. An explanation is suggested for why voters would discount even credible information that a candidate is corrupt. Then the results of an experiment designed to test a necessary condition in this explanation are reported. The principal implication of this exploratory study is that corrupt elected officials are immune from electoral reprisal because voters rather easily trade off the information that a candidate is corrupt in return for other things they value in the candidate.
Article
The unprecedented growth of public disquiet about sleaze in contemporary Britain can be interpreted in a number of different ways. Defenders of the status quo point to the relatively sudden and distinctive emergence of the sleaze issue as a concept in public debate, arguing that it is only (or primarily) a mass media creation, a spasm or temporary moral panic in which a small number of problems are overdramatized and ascribed implausible levels of significance. For this school of thought, sleaze is a minor issue or a non-issue for most of the public, and its sudden prominence has no lasting constitutional significance beyond perhaps triggering a few, incremental safeguards of the kind recommended in the first Nolan Committee report. By contrast, more critical voices suggest that the ‘sleaze’ furore is indicative of a substantial and recurring problem within the British polity, left unresolved by previous periods of reform, and now eliciting strong calls for fundamental constitutional change from the majority of citizens. In the past, the difficulties in deciding between these two views have been considerable for a number of reasons. First, it was hard to say anything very objective about the media’s behaviour. Second, the available survey information about public opinion on these issues was fragmentary and often seriously defective in terms of the questions asked or the methods used. Against a background where media influences and public attitudes could only be rather impressionistically described, it was much harder to determine the significance of problems with established institutional rules. Here we remedy these difficulties using two new data sources—information derived from a systematic analysis of mass media behaviour on the sleaze issue, discussed in our first section; and data from the comprehensive survey of public attitudes to constitutional reform questions contained in the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust’s State of the Nation surveys in 1991 and 1995, discussed in the second section. The conclusions show how these findings put the current sleaze furore into a different perspective. The media’s impact in creating an integrated issue is acknowledged. But the public’s response to the disparate concerns included in the overall issue reflects longer term and fundamental problems in traditional constitutional arrangements and with the dominant ‘self-regulation’ ethos of Britain’s governing elites.
Article
A serious failing of comparative legislative studies is that, while much is known about various aspects of many individual legislatures, there is no acceptable, general model of legislative change. The notion of institutionalization, as developed by Eisenstadt, Huntington, and others, and as applied to the U.S. House of Representatives by Polsby, probably offers the most promise to those who hope this situation will change. Here we find the seeds of what could become a model of legislative evolution. To date, however, no concerted attempt has been made to determine how well the concept of institutionalization fares in legislatures other than the U.S. House of Representatives. Moreover, significant differences of opinion persist regarding the interpretation and merit of the term. Consequently, in this paper I present data from a legislature other than the U.S. House of Representatives--the British House of Commons--and discuss the value of the notion of institutionalization as it has been applied to legislatures. This research constitutes a preliminary attempt to ascertain the ability of institutionalization to explain the nature of legislative change and not just change in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Article
Political scientists have long been interested in the occupational decisions of politicians. Two events prior to the 1992 congressional elections brought journalists and the broader public into emotion-rich but data-poor discussions of how and why to achieve greater turnover in Congress. The House banking scandal gave rise to standard arguments that voters should "throw the bums out." An initially obscure provision in the Federal Election Campaign Act, which allowed certain grandfathered members personally to pocket their campaign war chests, gave rise to somewhat more sophisticated assertions about "buying the bums out." Using preelection data on incumbents' decisions to retire or seek reelection, we estimate the effects of these special features of the 1992 election while improving upon prior estimates of strategic retirements more generally. By embedding an explicit occupational choice model into a maximum-likelihood equation, we find strong evidence of strategic retirements, and we quantify precisely the turnover that can be attributed to rubber checks and golden parachutes.
Article
British elections are traditionally understood to be dominated by parties and leaders. Local candidates are taken to be mere ciphers, whose impact on the outcome is negligible. Recently, however, several works have documented a change in MP behavior. Today's members do more constituency service than did their predecessors, in the belief that this will create a personal vote. If the MPs are succeeding, incumbency advantage should now be evident, as it is in American elections. In fact, incumbency advantage does not seem to have changed over the postwar period: for the major parties, it remains small and sporadic.
Article
Abstract The best current defense of democracy is the theory of retrospective voting. Citizens may not know much about the issues, the argument goes, but they can tell good from bad outcomes, and that allows them to remove incompetent or corrupt incumbents. Moreover, knowing that the voters use that rule, every government will have every incentive to do what they want, thus fulfilling the promise of democratic theory. Some formal analysis and much empirical work during the last several decades, particularly on “pocketbook voting,” has seemed to uphold this interpretation. We find, however, that the voters cannot manage,the task of competent retrospection. They forget all about most previous experience with the incumbents and vote solely on how they feel about the most recent months. Knowing that, governments pander tothe voters near election time, showering them with one-time benefits atypical of their performance in office.Governments are retained or removed, then, not because they drift away from the voters ideologically or because they have performed poorly on
Article
This paper calculates indices of central bank autonomy (CBA) for 163 central banks as of end-2003, and comparable indices for a subgroup of 68 central banks as of the end of the 1980s. The results confirm strong improvements in both economic and political CBA over the past couple of decades, although more progress is needed to boost political autonomy of the central banks in emerging market and developing countries. Our analysis confirms that greater CBA has on average helped to maintain low inflation levels. The paper identifies four broad principles of CBA that have been shared by the majority of countries. Significant differences exist in the area of banking supervision where many central banks have retained a key role. Finally, we discuss the sequencing of reforms to separate the conduct of monetary and fiscal policies. IMF Staff Papers (2009) 56, 263–296. doi:10.1057/imfsp.2008.25; published online 23 September 2008
Article
The 2009 scandal over British MPs' expenses claims unleashed a powerful and highly vocal tide of public anger with elected politicians. It claimed some political careers: some of the MPs most heavily implicated in the scandal decided (or were forced) to stand down at the 2010 election rather than face the voters' wrath. Others struggled to deal with the consequences and the party leaderships felt they had to be seen to be responsive to public outrage. But the scandal hit a year before the UK general election, a contest dominated by anxieties over a deep global recession, looming public sector cuts and antipathies towards a deeply unpopular prime minister. In this environment, no-one could be sure of the scandal's wider electoral fallout. Would the departure of the most notably guilty MPs assuage public anger, or would the effects be more extensive, taking in either implicated MPs seeking re-election, or even all MPs standing again, irrespective of their involvement? The article examines the scandal's electoral implications.
Article
The 2010 election was fought against the backdrop of both economic recession and political scandal. Yet although the incumbent Labour government was clearly rejected by the voters, the principal opposition party, the Conservatives made only a modest advance. Fewer voters backed one or other the two largest parties than ever before. Meanwhile, for only the second time since 1945, no one party secured an overall majority. In this paper we analyse the constituency level election results in order to identify possible explanations of the parties’ performances and to account for the outcome in seats.
Article
The revelation that hundreds of House members had regularly overdrawn their checking accounts with the House bank without penalty injected a new and unanticipated issue into the 1992 elections. The consequences were profound. The scandal was a major reason for the unusually high turnover of House seats in 1992. Bank overdrafts contributed significantly to exit by all routes: retirement, defeat in the primary election, and defeat in the general election. Overdrafts did not automatically spell disaster for incumbents, however; a record of bad checks was far more damaging when exploited by an experienced, well-financed challenger.
Article
The scandal over MPs' expenses that erupted in 2009 was followed by a surge in discussion of electoral reform. A range of reforms to Westminster's existing electoral system are now high on the political agenda. This article examines the extent and the nature of the scandal's impact on the electoral reform debate and draws out comparative implications for the sorts of conditions that can force politicians to accept electoral reforms that they do not want. It finds that the expenses scandal significantly changed debate about some electoral reform topics, but not about others. It proposes three factors likely to increase the impact of scandal in sparking reform: that the scandal is seen as harming ordinary people in their daily lives; that reforms can readily be understood as likely to mitigate the sources of scandal; and that those reforms do not seriously harm politicians' own perceived interests.
Book
What is good government? Why do some governments fail? How do you implement political accountability in practice? What incentives do you need to put in place to ensure that politicians and public servants act in the public interest and not their own? These questions and many more are addressed in Timothy Besley's intriguing Lindahl lectures. Economic analyses of government usually divide into two broad camps. One which emphasizes government as a force for public good that can regulate markets, distribute resources and generally work towards improving the lives of its citizens. The other sees government as driven by private interests, susceptible to those with the power to influence its decisions and failing to incentivize its officials to act for the greater public good. This book adopts a middle way between the two extremes, the Publius approach, which recognizes the potential for government to act for the public good but also accepts the fact that things often go wrong. It shares the view that there are certain institutional preconditions for effective government but then proceed to examine exactly what those preconditions are. Timothy Besley emphasises that it is not just about designing an appropriate institutional framework but also about understanding the way incentives work and the process by which the political class is selected.
Article
In this paper we prove theoretically and demonstrate empirically that all existing measures of incumbency advantage in the congressional elections literature are biased or inconsistent. We then provide an unbiased estimator based on a very simple linear regression model. We apply this new method to congressional elections since 1900, providing the first evidence of a positive incumbency advantage in the first half of the century. Government Version of Record
Article
This paper tests the existence and the extent of a politically induced busi ness cycle in the United States in the post-World War II period. The cycle described in this paper is quite different from the traditional "political business cycle" of William Nordhaus. It is based upon t he assumption that Republican and Democratic administrations have fol lowed systematically different monetary policies. The empirical impli cations of the theory are supported by the data. Copyright 1988 by Ohio State University Press.
Article
Standard agency theory suggests that rational voters will vote to re-elect politicians who deliver favorable outcomes. A second implication is that rational voters will not support a politician because of good outcomes unrelated to the politician’s actions. Specifically, rational voters should try to filter signal from noise, both in order to avoid electing incompetent, but lucky politicians, and to maximize the link between their votes and optimal incentives. This paper provides insight into the information processing capacities of voters, by measuring the extent to which they irrationally reward state governors for economic fluctuations that are plausibly unrelated to gubernatorial actions. Simple tests of relative performance evaluation reveal that voters evaluate their state’s economic performance relative to the national economy. However, these tests only provide evidence of rule-of-thumb performance filtering. More sophisticated tests reveal that voters in oil-producing states tend to re-elect incumbent governors during oil price rises, and vote them out of office when the oil price drops. Similarly, voters in pro-cyclical states are consistently fooled into re-electing incumbents during national booms, only to dump them during national recessions. Consistent with an emerging behavioral literature, this suggests that voters make systematic attribution errors and are best characterized as quasi-rational.
Article
This paper establishes the relatively weak conditions under which causal inferences from a regression–discontinuity (RD) analysis can be as credible as those from a randomized experiment, and hence under which the validity of the RD design can be tested by examining whether or not there is a discontinuity in any pre-determined (or “baseline”) variables at the RD threshold. Specifically, consider a standard treatment evaluation problem in which treatment is assigned to an individual if and only if V>v0, but where v0 is a known threshold, and V is observable. V can depend on the individual's characteristics and choices, but there is also a random chance element: for each individual, there exists a well-defined probability distribution for V. The density function—allowed to differ arbitrarily across the population—is assumed to be continuous. It is formally established that treatment status here is as good as randomized in a local neighborhood of V=v0. These ideas are illustrated in an analysis of U.S. House elections, where the inherent uncertainty in the final vote count is plausible, which would imply that the party that wins is essentially randomized among elections decided by a narrow margin. The evidence is consistent with this prediction, which is then used to generate “near-experimental” causal estimates of the electoral advantage to incumbency.
Article
Political parties maintain local organisations and recruit members mainly to fight elections. For most of the post-war period, however, the dominant view among analysts has been that constituency campaigning in British general elections has little or no effect on election outcomes. This view has been challenged over the last ten years or so. Evidence derived from post-election surveys of constituency election agents following the 1992, 1997 and 2001 general elections is used here to show that the intensity of constituency campaigning significantly affects turnout levels and, for Labour and the Liberal Democrats, levels of party support. There is also some evidence that Conservative campaigning affected constituency variations in the party's performance in 2001. The conclusions reached on the basis of aggregate-level analysis are supported by analysis of individual-level data derived from British Election Study surveys. The effects of campaigning are not large, but they are clear and significant – and sufficient to affect the numbers of seats won by the major parties. In the light of this, parties have good reasons to maintain healthy local organisations.
Corrupt politicians and their electoral support:some experimental observationsBeyond quid pro quo: What’s wrong with private gain from public office?
  • B Rundquist
  • G Strom
  • J A Peters
Rundquist, B., Strom, G. & Peters, J. (1977), ‘Corrupt politicians and their electoral support:some experimental observations’, The American Political Science Review 71(3), 954–963. 35 rStark, A. (1997), ‘Beyond quid pro quo: What’s wrong with private gain from public office?’, American Political Science Review pp. 108–120
The impersonal vote? constituency service and incumbency advantage in british elections, 1950-92’, Legislative Studies Quarterly pp. 167–195Estimating incumbency advantage without bias
  • B Gaines
Gaines, B. (1998), ‘The impersonal vote? constituency service and incumbency advantage in british elections, 1950-92’, Legislative Studies Quarterly pp. 167–195. 34 rGelman, A. & King, G. (1990), ‘Estimating incumbency advantage without bias’, American Journal of Political Science pp. 1142–1164
forthcoming, 2012), 'The electoral impact of the uk 2009 mps' expenses scandal', Political Studies
  • R Johnston
  • C Pattie
Johnston, R. & Pattie, C. (forthcoming, 2012), 'The electoral impact of the uk 2009 mps' expenses scandal', Political Studies.
  • F Caselli
  • M Morelli
Caselli, F. & Morelli, M. (2004), 'Bad politicians', Journal of Public Economics 88(3), 759– 782.
The effects of charges of corruption on voting behavior in congressional elections', The American Political Science Review pp
  • J Peters
  • S Welch
Peters, J. & Welch, S. (1980), 'The effects of charges of corruption on voting behavior in congressional elections', The American Political Science Review pp. 697–708.
Lacking Information or Condoning Corruption? Voter Attitudes Toward Corruption in Brazil
  • R Weitz-Shapiro
  • M S Winters
Weitz-Shapiro, R. & Winters, M. S. (2010), 'Lacking Information or Condoning Corruption? Voter Attitudes Toward Corruption in Brazil', SSRN eLibrary.
Punishing corruption: The response of the japanese electorate to scandals', Political Psychology in Japan: Behind the Nails Which Sometimes Stick out (and Get Hammered Down)
  • S Reed
Reed, S. (1999), 'Punishing corruption: The response of the japanese electorate to scandals', Political Psychology in Japan: Behind the Nails Which Sometimes Stick out (and Get Hammered Down). Commack, NY: Nova Science.
Beyond quid pro quo: What's wrong with private gain from public office?', American Political Science Review pp
  • A Stark
Stark, A. (1997), 'Beyond quid pro quo: What's wrong with private gain from public office?', American Political Science Review pp. 108–120.
[A]ll MPs should have outside jobs After all, about 100 MPs do have another job as ministers in the government, so the argument that it is a full-time job falls flat
  • For
  • Letter
For example, see letter to the editor from John Birkett, 29 May 2009, in the Glasgow Herald : " [A]ll MPs should have outside jobs. After all, about 100 MPs do have another job as ministers in the government, so the argument that it is a full-time job falls flat. " 43 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7159357.stm, accessed 5 September, 2011. 44 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/6015434/
have-to-survive-on-rations.html 45 The allowance for office costs and staffing rose from £8,480 in 1981 to £115,000 in 2011; the MP's basic salary rose from £13
  • Alan-Duncan Achen
  • C Bartels
Alan-Duncan-MPs-are-treated-like--and-have-to-survive-on-rations.html 45 The allowance for office costs and staffing rose from £8,480 in 1981 to £115,000 in 2011; the MP's basic salary rose from £13,950 in 1981 to £65,738 in 2011. References Achen, C. & Bartels, L. (2004a), 'Blind retrospection: Electoral responses to drought, flu, and shark attacks'.
The constituency service basis of the personal vote for us representatives and british members of parliament', The American Political Science Review pp
  • B Cain
  • J Ferejohn
  • M Fiorina
Cain, B., Ferejohn, J. & Fiorina, M. (1984), 'The constituency service basis of the personal vote for us representatives and british members of parliament', The American Political Science Review pp. 110–125.