Corruption, scandals and incompetence: Do voters care? rights and content
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  • Misconduct by politicians is punished by voters in local elections in the Netherlands.

  • Parties with corruption incidents lose 1 in 5 voters (or 3 percentage points).

  • Parties with scandals or incompetence lose 1 in 10 voters (or 1.5 percentage points).

  • The type-selection and accountability theories are both important in explaining this.


Accountability theory posits that elections weed out badly performing politicians, whereas type-selection theory posits that politicians who do not represent a (sufficiently large) group are ousted. This paper tests this by estimating the impact of various forms of misconduct by Dutch local government politicians on the vote share of their parties. It shows that incidents that reveal incompetence cost their parties 1.5 percentage points of the vote share, or roughly 10 percent of their voters. Incidents that expose politicians to be someone else than their public image suggests (i.e., scandals) have a similar cost. Incidents that reveal both simultaneously (i.e., corruption) cost parties almost double, namely 3 percentage points. The results show that the accountability and type-selection theories are both important in explaining voting behavior and suggest that there might be additional punishment when both theories predict a negative effect.


Electoral accountability

Data availability

Data will be made available on request.

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I am grateful to two anonymous referees, Maarten Allers, and various seminar and workshop audiences for their valuable comments and suggestions. I am also grateful to Leo Huberts, Bart de Koning, Muel Kaptein, and Henk Bouwmans for collecting and sharing data used in this article.