Elections as instruments for punishing bad representatives and selecting good ones

Brian F. Crisp, Santiago Olivella, Joshua D. Potter, William Mishler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Many theories of democracy point out that voters make their choices based on two goals: the retrospective assessment of incumbents and the prospective choice between incumbents and challengers. Do voters react to malfeasance on the part of their elected representatives? If they abandon corrupt incumbents, are they able to select more virtuous replacements? In this paper, we assess the effects of corruption on voter loyalty and, conversely, of voter defection on subsequent malfeasance. We examine these relationships with data drawn from 169 elections across 72 countries. Our results show that malfeasance does indeed provoke voter defection, but that electoral volatility is not followed by lower levels of perceived corruption. We conclude by discussing the appropriate interpretation of our results, the future research they suggest, and their meaning for related, emerging literatures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalElectoral Studies
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Corruption
  • Electoral volatility
  • Malfeasance
  • Prospective selection
  • Retrospective assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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