Political Corruption and Partisan Engagement: Evidence from Brazil

Matthew S. Winters, Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro


In long-standing democracies, the partisan attachments of most citizens are stable and not responsive to short-term political events. Recent studies from younger democracies, however, suggest that partisanship may be more malleable in these contexts. In this paper we develop hypotheses about how political corruption might affect voter attachment to the parties of corrupt officials or to the party system as a whole. Using data from an original survey experiment in Brazil, we show that prompts about political corruption shift patterns of partisan attachment for highly educated respondents – specifically, that corruption associated with one political party reduces nonpartisanship and significantly increases identification with other political parties. In contrast, we find that information on corruption has no consistent measurable effect on partisanship for less educated respondents. We conclude by discussing the implications of malleable partisanship for democratic accountability.

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