Punishing Personal and Electoral Corruption: Experimental Evidence from India.

Research and Politics (2016) 3(2): 1–6

A growing literature examines the effect of corruption on political behavior. However, little attention has been paid so far to the fact that politicians engage in it for various reasons and with different welfare consequences. In this article, I argue that voters judge corrupt politicians differently depending on what the money is used for. I show results from a survey experiment in India in which respondents heard about a politician who accepted money for a political favor. One treatment group was told that the politician used the money to personally enrich himself (personal corruption), while the other group was informed that he used it to buy votes (electoral corruption). Respondents who received the vote buying treatment were clearly and consistently less likely to agree with a series of potential punishments. This suggests that the overall welfare consequences of corrupt exchanges are an important factor when voters decide how to judge offending politicians.

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