Are voters too afraid to tackle corruption? Survey and experimental evidence from Mexico

Omar García-Ponce, Thomas Zeitzoff, Leonard Wantchekon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Are individuals in violent contexts reluctant to tackle corruption for fear of future violence? Or does violence mobilize them to fight corruption? We investigate these questions looking at the effects of fear and violence stemming from the Mexican Drug War on attitudes toward corruption. We conducted two surveys before the 2012 Mexican presidential election. First, as part of a nationally representative survey, we find a positive correlation between fear of violence and willingness to accept corruption in exchange for lower levels of violence. To disentangle causal effects, we conducted a follow-up survey experiment in Greater Mexico City where we manipulated fear over the Drug War. We find that individuals within this context are not easily scared. Those who received a common fear-inducing manipulation do not report higher levels of fear and are less willing to tolerate corruption. Conversely, we find strong evidence that individuals who have been victims of crime are more likely to report both higher levels of fear and willingness to accept corruption if it lowers violence. Our findings suggest that voters are more strategic and resilient in the face of violence than many extant theories of political behavior suggest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)709-727
Number of pages19
JournalPolitical Science Research and Methods
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 18 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


  • Civil/domestic conflict
  • comparative politics: developing countries
  • comparative politics: political behavior
  • experimentalresearch


Dive into the research topics of 'Are voters too afraid to tackle corruption? Survey and experimental evidence from Mexico'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this