WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO PUNISH THE CORRUPT? An experiment on the impact of clean alternatives and information credibility in elections featuring corruption

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: A recurrent issue in democratic societies is the re-election of corrupt politicians to public office. Researchers have identified several causes for why this may be. One prominent hypothesis indicates that the absence of a “clean” non-corrupt alternative in elections cause voters to opt for the otherwise most competent candidate, thereby voting for corrupt politicians. Results find thatoffering a clean alternative thusly cause voters to opt-out of voting for the corrupt politicians, even if they are the more competent candidates. The results, however, are based on presenting undoubtedly corrupt politicians to voters, whereas in lieu of a landscape of fake news and social media, a more realistic voting scenario entails varying credibility that the politician is corrupt. The goal of this study is to advance our understanding on the importance of clean alternatives by testing how corruption accusations with varying degrees of credibility affect voters. To accomplish this, an experiment in the form of an online survey was performed on 365 Japanese respondents. The experiment let the respondents choose between political candidates with or without accusations of corruption. The accusations varied in credibility, ranging from very credible to highly dubious. The study finds that the accused corrupt politicians obtain more votes when the accusation is less credible. The study also finds that a considerate number of voters prefer the clean alternative even when the accusation is highly dubious. The study concludes that accurate and thorough information spreading could be a vital component in both ensuring that corrupt politicians are punished in elections, as well as in protecting non-corrupt candidates from smear and faulty accusations.

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