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Corruption as the Only Option: The Limits to Electoral Accountability

This article offers an additional explanation for why corrupt politicians survive democratic elections. I argue that, unlike other electoral issues, corruption possesses some specificities that make it an issue that voters tend to believe politicians are particularly incompetent to deal with. When voters believe corruption to be a constant among candidate options, they are likely to overlook this aspect of government performance, basing their vote on other concerns. This attitude is particularly prevalent when corruption is more pervasive, which leads to the prediction that accountability for corruption will be weaker when it is needed the most. This study relies on a multimethod approach that brings together data from Brazil and a broader set of countries. This article helps one to understand why corrupt governments go unpunished and informs efforts to curb this problem.