The Political Consequences of Corruption Scandals: Main Findings and Challenges.

In: Tumber, H., and S. Waisbord. (Eds.), 2019, The Routledge Companion to Media and Scandal. Routledge.

Co-authored with Sofia Breitenstein and Enrique Hernández


This chapter focuses on the political consequences of corruption scandals. There is an increasing number of studies that analyze the political consequences of corruption on citizens’ political attitudes and behavior. However, while there is a growing consensus about the negative effects of corruption on individuals’ political attitudes, the debate is not settled as to whether these are further reflected in electoral behavior. Through a critical review of the most relevant literature on this matter, this chapter elaborates on some of the reasons why citizens might not punish politicians involved in corruption scandals. Voters may not punish corrupt politicians for three main reasons: (i) because they don’t know—e.g. they do not receive information about corruption, they question the credibility of this information, they cannot clearly attribute responsibilities for corrupt practices, or they forget about scandals that have taken place long before an election; (ii) because they don’t want to—e.g. because punishing corrupt politicians conflicts with previously held attitudes like partisanship, or because voters receive side benefits from corrupt acts; and (iii) because they can’t—e.g. there are no non-corrupt alternatives to vote for, or the ones available are too different from voters’ preferred party.