Mathias Poertner, Nan Zhang
The Effects of Combating Corruption on Institutional Trust and Political Engagement: Evidence from Latin America

Political Science Research and Methods, In Press: (publ. online before print)
ISSN: 2049-8470 (print), 2049-8489 (online)

While a number of high-level figures around the world have been prosecuted and even jailed for corruption in recent years, we know little about how such anticorruption efforts shape public opinion and patterns of political engagement. To address this question, we examine evidence from Argentina and Costa Rica involving the unprecedented sentencing of two former Presidents on corruption charges. Exploiting the coincidence in timing between these cases and fieldwork on nationally representative surveys, we find that citizens interviewed in the aftermath of these events expressed lower trust in institutions and were less willing to vote or join in collective demonstrations. Overall, these findings suggest that high-profile efforts to punish corrupt actors may have similar effects as political scandals in shaping citizens' relationship to the political system.