Ethics and integrity in politics: Perceptions, control, and impact

Ethics and integrity in politics: Perceptions, control, and impact

Political ethics strengthens the bonds of trust between citizens and their representatives, and therefore matters to the overall quality of democracy. Yet levels of trust in parties, parliaments and governments have fallen in most cross-national surveys [1] [2]. A fall in political trust has coincided not only with an increase in scandals associated to the financial probity of party officials, MPs and cabinet members, but also a poor record in clarifying what those standards should be and how they ought to be enforced.

Countries responded to this credibility deficit through a complex mixture of internal and external regulations and supervision governing the ethical conduct of individual and collective political actors. Most of these regulatory efforts have not been properly designed and enforced, thus projecting an image of slackness and impunity. The overall perception is that there is no willingness and commitment from the political class to improve and uphold ethical standards in political life.

Compliance with ethics regulations exists when individuals fear direct sanctions resulting from the infringement of legal and deontological norms governing their conduct in office and are concerned with the reputational implications their conduct might have. In the age of social media, individual misconduct is amplified, and personal and institutional reputations are quickly and sometimes irreparably damaged. For this reason, integrity management in political life cannot rely solely on external legal frameworks, oversight and enforcement. Self-regulatory measures, such as internal codes of conduct and disciplinary bodies, are also needed.

In order to try to understand the impact that the perceived decline in ethical standards in politics has on levels of trust and satisfaction with democracy, four interrelated research questions will guide our inquiry onto political integrity: (RQ1) “What is ethical and unethical conduct in political life expected by both citizens and politicians?”; (RQ2) “How is the reputational risk associated to unethical conduct perceived by both groups?”; (RQ3) “What measures have parties, parliaments, and governments implemented to mitigate these risks?”; and (RQ4) “What is the perceived effectiveness of these measures, i.e. what is their reputational impact?”.

Estatuto: 
Proponent entity
Financed: 
Yes
Entidades: 
Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos (FFMS)
Rede: 
Outreach partner: Transparência e Integridade – Portugal (TI-PT)
Keywords: 

Ethics, Regulation, Parties, Parliaments, Governments

Political ethics strengthens the bonds of trust between citizens and their representatives, and therefore matters to the overall quality of democracy. Yet levels of trust in parties, parliaments and governments have fallen in most cross-national surveys [1] [2]. A fall in political trust has coincided not only with an increase in scandals associated to the financial probity of party officials, MPs and cabinet members, but also a poor record in clarifying what those standards should be and how they ought to be enforced.

Countries responded to this credibility deficit through a complex mixture of internal and external regulations and supervision governing the ethical conduct of individual and collective political actors. Most of these regulatory efforts have not been properly designed and enforced, thus projecting an image of slackness and impunity. The overall perception is that there is no willingness and commitment from the political class to improve and uphold ethical standards in political life.

Compliance with ethics regulations exists when individuals fear direct sanctions resulting from the infringement of legal and deontological norms governing their conduct in office and are concerned with the reputational implications their conduct might have. In the age of social media, individual misconduct is amplified, and personal and institutional reputations are quickly and sometimes irreparably damaged. For this reason, integrity management in political life cannot rely solely on external legal frameworks, oversight and enforcement. Self-regulatory measures, such as internal codes of conduct and disciplinary bodies, are also needed.

In order to try to understand the impact that the perceived decline in ethical standards in politics has on levels of trust and satisfaction with democracy, four interrelated research questions will guide our inquiry onto political integrity: (RQ1) “What is ethical and unethical conduct in political life expected by both citizens and politicians?”; (RQ2) “How is the reputational risk associated to unethical conduct perceived by both groups?”; (RQ3) “What measures have parties, parliaments, and governments implemented to mitigate these risks?”; and (RQ4) “What is the perceived effectiveness of these measures, i.e. what is their reputational impact?”.

Objectivos: 
The project aims to generate three interrelated impacts: (i) at the scientific level, by comparing elite and public attitudes towards political ethics, mapping internal self-regulatory measures implemented by political actors to mitigate reputational risks and evaluating to what extent such initiatives can help restoring their trustworthiness; (ii) at the civic level, by raising public awareness about elite and mass expectations of ethics in political life; and (iii) at the policy level, by engaging relevant political actors in a policy dialogue with academia and civil society organizations to bring about knowledge-based, innovative and integrated solutions to mitigate reputational risks and improve ethical standards in political life.
Parceria: 
National network

ETHICS

Coordenador 
Start Date: 
01/10/2019
End Date: 
30/09/2021
Duração: 
24 meses
Active