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Rooting Out Corruption or Rooting for Corruption? The Heterogeneous Electoral Consequences of Scandals*

  • Pablo Fernández-Vázquez, Pablo Barberá and Gonzalo Rivero

Corruption scandals have been found to have significant but mild electoral effects in the comparative literature (Golden 2006). However, most studies have assumed that voters punish all kinds of illegal practices. This article challenges this assumption by distinguishing between two types of corruption, according to the type of welfare consequences they have for the constituency. This hypothesis is tested using data from the 2011 Spanish local elections. We exploit the abundance of corruption allegations associated with the Spanish housing boom, which generated income gains for a wide segment of the electorate in the short term. We find that voters ignore corruption when there are side benefits to it, and that punishment is only administered in those cases in which they do not receive compensation.

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Pablo Fernández-Vázquez, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Vanderbilt University, 230 Appleton Place, PMB 505, Nashville TN 37203 ( Pablo Barberá, Moore-Sloan Data Science Fellow, Center for Data Science, New York University, 726 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10003 ( Gonzalo Rivero, Statistical Scientist, YouGov, 285 Hamilton Avenue, Suite 200, 94301 Palo Alto, California ( The authors would like to thank Franziska Keller, Spyros Kosmidis, Bernard Manin, Adam Przeworski, Liz Zechmeister and four anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and discussions. Previous versions of this paper were presented at Universidad Diego Portales and the annual meetings of EPSA (2012) and IPSA (2012). The authors also acknowledge generous support by the “La Caixa” Fellowship Program. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit

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Political Science Research and Methods
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