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Are voters too afraid to tackle corruption? Survey and experimental evidence from Mexico

Omar García-Ponce, Thomas Zeitzoff and Leonard Wantchekon

Political Science Research and Methods, 2021, vol. 9, issue 4, 709-727

Abstract: Are individuals in violent contexts reluctant to tackle corruption for fear of future violence? Or does violence mobilize them to fight corruption? We investigate these questions looking at the effects of fear and violence stemming from the Mexican Drug War on attitudes toward corruption. We conducted two surveys before the 2012 Mexican presidential election. First, as part of a nationally representative survey, we find a positive correlation between fear of violence and willingness to accept corruption in exchange for lower levels of violence. To disentangle causal effects, we conducted a follow-up survey experiment in Greater Mexico City where we manipulated fear over the Drug War. We find that individuals within this context are not easily scared. Those who received a common fear-inducing manipulation do not report higher levels of fear and are less willing to tolerate corruption. Conversely, we find strong evidence that individuals who have been victims of crime are more likely to report both higher levels of fear and willingness to accept corruption if it lowers violence. Our findings suggest that voters are more strategic and resilient in the face of violence than many extant theories of political behavior suggest.

Date: 2021
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