Political quid pro quo and the impact of perceptions of corruption on democratic behavior
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Since its ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, the U.S. Supreme Court has expressed concern regarding corruption or the appearance of corruption stemming from political quid pro quo arrangements and the deleterious consequences it may have on citizens’ democratic behavior. However, no standard has been set as to what constitutes “the appearance of corruption,” as the Court was and continues to be vague in its definition. As a result, campaign finance cases after Buckley have relied on public opinion polls as evidence of perceptions of corruption, and these polls indicate that the public generally perceives high levels of corruption in government. The present study investigates the actual impact that perceptions of corruption have on individuals’ levels of political participation. Adapting the standard socioeconomic status model developed most fully by Verba and Nie (1972), an extended beta-binomial regression estimated using maximum likelihood is performed, utilizing unique data from the 2009 University of Texas’ Money and Politics survey. The results of this study indicate that individuals who perceive higher levels of quid pro quo corruption participate more in politics, on average, than those who perceive lower levels of corruption. This suggests that at least part of the Supreme Court’s rationale for upholding the FECA contribution limits in Buckley v. Valeo was unfounded. A similar test was performed using questions from the 2008 American National Election Study that have been used as proxies for corruption in previous studies, with inconclusive results. The more precise measure in the Money and Politics survey relates directly to the role of money in politics and provides better information than the ANES proxies have in the past, as those have been found to be related to factors other than money in politics.