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Corrupt Politicians and Their Electoral Support: Some Experimental Observations*

  • Barry S. Rundquist (a1), Gerald S. Strom (a1) and John G. Peters (a2)

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.

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An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, Illinois, September, 1974. The authors would like to thank John Ferejohn, John Gardiner, Susan Hansen, Lyman Kellstedt, Benjamin Page, Harry Scoble, Lester Seligman, Donley Studlar, Beatrice Villar, and Susan Welch for critical comments and suggestions relevant to drafts of this paper.

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Henry Jones Ford in his “Municipal Corruption,” Political Science Quarterly, 19 (12, 1904), pp. 673686

Arthur F. Bentley , The Process of Government, ed. Peter H. Odegard (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967), Chapter II

Peter B. Clark and James Q. Wilson , “Incentive Systems: A Theory of Organizations,” Administrative Science Quarterly, 6 (09, 1961), 129166

Michael J. Shapiro , “Rational Political Man: A Synthesis of Economic and Social-Psychological Perspectives,” American Political Science Review, 63 (12, 1969), 11061119

James C. Scott , “Corruption, Machine Politics, and Political Change,” American Political Science Review, 63 (12, 1969), 11421158, at p. 1146

D. Alpert and D. Bitzer , “Advances in Computer-Based Education,” Science, 167 (03, 1970), 15821590

Jack Citrin , “Comment: The Political Relevance of Trust in Government,” American Political Science Review, 68 (09, 1974), 973988

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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