Nicholas Nathan Kerr and Eric Chang, “An Insider–Outsider Theory of Popular Tolerance for Corrupt Politicians .” Journal Article

Nicholas Nathan Kerr (University of Alabama) and Eric Chang (Michigan State University)

Governance (Published 2017, 30: 67–84. doi:10.1111/gove.12193 )


This article addresses the puzzle of electoral support for corrupt politicians in emerging democracies by examining citizens’ varying attitudes toward political corruption. We make an important theoretical distinction between perceptions of and tolerance for corruption, and argue that these different attitudes vary across individuals depending on whether they are political insiders or outsiders. We test our theory using Afrobarometer survey data from 18 sub-Saharan African countries and find that individuals included within clientelistic networks simultaneously perceive corruption as ubiquitous and are more tolerant of malfeasance. Meanwhile, those individuals with partisan or ethnic ties to the incumbent are less likely to consider corruption as widespread. Finally, we explore whether variation in attitudes toward corruption influences citizens’ voting behavior, and find that insiders are less likely to “vote the rascals out.”