Corruption and economic crisis, a poisonous combination: understanding process-outcome interactions in the explanation of public support for democracy

Corruption and economic crisis, a poisonous combination: understanding process-outcome interactions in the explanation of public support for democracy

There is a growing debate about the danger of deconsolidation in many countries, i.e. citizens becoming dissatisfied with democracy and increasingly open to nondemocratic alternatives. This trend has been more sensitive in bailout countries like Portugal. Support for democracy has been seriously questioned in terms of the idea of democracy and the values underpinning its governance (diffuse); the performance of its institutions (specific); and the incumbent’s decisions and actions (reasoned). Although there is a vast literature on economic (outcome-oriented) and institutional (process-oriented) predictors of political support, little has been said regarding their interaction and how it accounts for multiple combinations of these three interrelated levels.

Recent empirical research confirms a link between corruption and political support, but evidence seems to suggest that citizens do not always punish incumbents electorally when corruption is made salient. There is a propensity, among the public, to trade off ethical standards for economic wellbeing. Although corruption is a deviation from normative conventions about admissible political exchanges, in contexts of economic growth it does not seem to produce equally strong reactions of moral outrage. When economic crisis erupts, corruption becomes an expression of unfairness and social injustice, producing feelings of anger.

There is a sizable body of literature analyzing the impact of the crisis on political support in democracy, including on the Portuguese case. However, the role of corruption and corruption-related attitudes and perceptions as a determinant factor has not been examined, partly because of its conceptual complexity.Hence, the need to carry out a mass survey to inspect how changes in the living conditions of individuals brought by government policies have affected their understanding, interaction with and levels of tolerance towards corruption, and how these changes help to explain levels and gradients of political support in democracy.

Under what conditions do citizens connect concerns about corruption (process-oriented factor) to economic performance (outcome-oriented factor) in their evaluations of the nature of the political regime, the performance of its institutions and the actions and policies of sitting executives? The interplay of economic and institutional predictors of political support — the process-outcome interaction — and its impact on the type of political support is under-examined: citizens’ perception of corruption coupled with the feeling of unjustified loss of wellbeing due to government policies and economic conditions may be more damaging in terms of specific and diffuse political support than in terms of reasoned support to the incumbents.

The project’s main thesis is that in contexts of economic crisis, citizens become particularly sensitive to corruption, especially that affecting political actors, institutions, and processes and when exposed to the problem’s salience in society, their judgements are more likely to express a system-oriented (‘sociotropic’) rather than individual-oriented (‘pocketbook’) understanding of the phenomenon. The general objective of this study is to analyse, using both observational and experimental data, how economic outcomes, real and perceived, can impact upon citizens’ ethical standards, in particular those regulating their relationship with politics and notions of procedural fairness, and how these, in turn, may help explaining levels and gradients of political support in democracy. More specifically, the project objectives are threefold: 1) Consolidation- to consolidate knowledge on citizens’ attitudes, perceptions and experiences of corruption by tacking stock of the findings of the FCT-funded 2006 mass survey [POCI/CPO/60031/2004] and replicating some of its core questions in order to evaluate tendencies before and after the crisis; 2) Innovation– to advance knowledge in this field at the conceptual level and in terms of the measurement of procedural perceptions and political support; 3) Validation– to offer a testing ground for survey methods and techniques. The project will make use of new experimental methods to overcome some of the problems that are recurrent when using surveys to study normative issues, such as the issue of social desirability or untruthful answers and to test the cause-effect relationships in different social groups and political targets.

 

Estatuto: 
Proponent entity
Financed: 
Yes
Keywords: 

Corrupção, Ética, Percepções, Democracia

There is a growing debate about the danger of deconsolidation in many countries, i.e. citizens becoming dissatisfied with democracy and increasingly open to nondemocratic alternatives. This trend has been more sensitive in bailout countries like Portugal. Support for democracy has been seriously questioned in terms of the idea of democracy and the values underpinning its governance (diffuse); the performance of its institutions (specific); and the incumbent’s decisions and actions (reasoned). Although there is a vast literature on economic (outcome-oriented) and institutional (process-oriented) predictors of political support, little has been said regarding their interaction and how it accounts for multiple combinations of these three interrelated levels.

Recent empirical research confirms a link between corruption and political support, but evidence seems to suggest that citizens do not always punish incumbents electorally when corruption is made salient. There is a propensity, among the public, to trade off ethical standards for economic wellbeing. Although corruption is a deviation from normative conventions about admissible political exchanges, in contexts of economic growth it does not seem to produce equally strong reactions of moral outrage. When economic crisis erupts, corruption becomes an expression of unfairness and social injustice, producing feelings of anger.

There is a sizable body of literature analyzing the impact of the crisis on political support in democracy, including on the Portuguese case. However, the role of corruption and corruption-related attitudes and perceptions as a determinant factor has not been examined, partly because of its conceptual complexity.Hence, the need to carry out a mass survey to inspect how changes in the living conditions of individuals brought by government policies have affected their understanding, interaction with and levels of tolerance towards corruption, and how these changes help to explain levels and gradients of political support in democracy.

Under what conditions do citizens connect concerns about corruption (process-oriented factor) to economic performance (outcome-oriented factor) in their evaluations of the nature of the political regime, the performance of its institutions and the actions and policies of sitting executives? The interplay of economic and institutional predictors of political support — the process-outcome interaction — and its impact on the type of political support is under-examined: citizens’ perception of corruption coupled with the feeling of unjustified loss of wellbeing due to government policies and economic conditions may be more damaging in terms of specific and diffuse political support than in terms of reasoned support to the incumbents.

The project’s main thesis is that in contexts of economic crisis, citizens become particularly sensitive to corruption, especially that affecting political actors, institutions, and processes and when exposed to the problem’s salience in society, their judgements are more likely to express a system-oriented (‘sociotropic’) rather than individual-oriented (‘pocketbook’) understanding of the phenomenon. The general objective of this study is to analyse, using both observational and experimental data, how economic outcomes, real and perceived, can impact upon citizens’ ethical standards, in particular those regulating their relationship with politics and notions of procedural fairness, and how these, in turn, may help explaining levels and gradients of political support in democracy. More specifically, the project objectives are threefold: 1) Consolidation- to consolidate knowledge on citizens’ attitudes, perceptions and experiences of corruption by tacking stock of the findings of the FCT-funded 2006 mass survey [POCI/CPO/60031/2004] and replicating some of its core questions in order to evaluate tendencies before and after the crisis; 2) Innovation– to advance knowledge in this field at the conceptual level and in terms of the measurement of procedural perceptions and political support; 3) Validation– to offer a testing ground for survey methods and techniques. The project will make use of new experimental methods to overcome some of the problems that are recurrent when using surveys to study normative issues, such as the issue of social desirability or untruthful answers and to test the cause-effect relationships in different social groups and political targets.

 

Objectivos: 
O objetivo geral deste estudo é o de analisar, a partir de dados correlacionais e experimentais, em que medida os resultados económicos, reais e percepcionados, podem afetar as noções de justiça processual e os padrões éticos dos cidadãos, em particular os que regulam a sua relação com a política e como é que estes processos, por sua vez, ajudam a explicar os níveis e gradações de apoio político em democracia. Os objectivos específicos são três e relacionam-se entre si: 1) Consolidação - consolidar o conhecimento sobre as atitudes, percepções e experiências de corrupção dos cidadãos em democracia, replicando algumas das questões centrais do inquérito à população financiado pela FCT em 2006 [POCI / CPO / 60031/2004] e avaliar tendências antes e depois da crise; 2) Inovação - avançar o conhecimento teórico neste campo e em termos da medição de percepções processuais e apoio político; 3) Validação - oferecer um campo experimental para testar metodologias e técnicas de recolha de dados. O projeto utilizará novos métodos experimentais para superar alguns dos problemas que são recorrentes no uso de inquéritos à população para estudar questões normativas, como a questão da desejabilidade social ou falsidade nas respostas e para testar as relações causa-efeito em diferentes grupos sociais e targets políticos.
Parceria: 
National network
Marcelo Moriconi

EPOCA

Coordenador 
Start Date: 
01/10/2018
End Date: 
30/09/2021
Duração: 
36 meses
Active