Trading off fear of violence for corruption? Survey and experimental evidence from Mexico

Available from: 
October 2013
Paper author(s): 
Omar Garcia-Ponce (New York University)
Leonard Wantchekon (Princeton University)
Thomas Zeitzoff (New York University)
Conflict, Crime and Violence
Politics and Economy

How does fear stemming from violence and lack of state capacity influence political behavior, and particularly attitudes towards corruption? We investigate the effect that fear and exposure to Drug War violence have on Mexican citizens' willingness to make trade-offs between corruption and violence ahead of the 2012 Mexican general election. We conducted two surveys a week apart before the election. First, as part of a nationally represented survey of Mexicans conducted two weeks before the election, we find that fear over violence from the Drug War was positively correlated with greater willingness to accept corruption in exchange for lower levels of violence. To disentangle the causal effects, we conducted a follow-up survey experiment on representative population in Greater Mexico City one week later. We randomly manipulated levels of fear over the Drug War. We find conditional effects. Individuals who have been victims of crimes and received the fear manipulation, are in favor of reducing corruption, even in the face of increased violence. Our results support a growing body of evidence that suggests that exposure to violence can activate civic engagement and reduce tolerance for poor governance.


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Research section: 
Lacea 2013 annual meeting
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