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Corruption and Governance

The growth of government has made a big majority of households on every continent frequent users of government services such as education, health, legal permits and policing. In developing as well as developed countries governance is not an abstract expression but a part of everyday life. Yet how people are treated when they encounter public officials varies greatly between countries, between services and between individuals at different stages of their life cycle. The ideal-type ‘vending machine’ bureaucracy of Max Weber is the exception rather than the rule. Most public officials enjoy a measure of discretion in what they do. Thus, even though individuals may be treated differently by public employees, a majority usually do not pay bribes. Nonetheless, the minority affected by bribery each year constitute an estimated 1.6 billion people. This bottom-up approach provides an innovative complement to the top-down focus on capital-intensive bribes paid for procuring contracts and favours from political elites.

The aim of the CSPP programme is to establish empirically major causes of the different experiences that people have. To do so we have assembled a data base of hundreds of nationwide sample surveys involving more than 250,000 interviews in more than 125 countries. The surveys have been conducted by Transparency International, the Afrobarometer, the Latin American Public Opinion Project, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Eurobarometer. Each has some core questions in common and also includes distinctive questions. The British ESRC has provided a five-year grant for this work from January, 2012 to December, 2016. In addition, Richard Rose heads an Expert Working Group monitoring an EU-funded study of institutional behaviour as it affects the supply of open data and transparency.

A comprehensive report of how individual experience in dealing with government varies is contained in a new book by Richard Rose and Caryn Peiffer, Paying Bribes for Public Services: a Global Guide to Grass-Roots Corruption. The programme has also developed six principles for reducing bribery. Analytic papers by CSPP staff and by experts in our network are published as Studies in Public Policy. Clear graphics and bullet points are presented in Talking Points that provide succinct interpretations of what our research reveals, with case studies of Russia providing specific examples of corruption. 

See also Rose, Richard and Wessels, Bernhard, "Money, Sex and Broken Promises: Politicians’ Bad Behaviour Reduces Trust", Parliamentary Affairs, forthcoming 2018.

This paper develops and tests empirically a theory of the effect on political trust of forms of behaviour that violate social, political and legal norms about how politicians ought to behave. These include taking money for favours, over-indulging in private life and making misleading promises to win votes. The evidence comes from a specially designed survey in Britain, France and Spain, countries where popular distrust of politicians appears greater than illegal political behaviour. Bad behaviours, especially abandoning election promises once in office, have a much stronger effect on distrust of political parties that do differences in partisanship. Comparing national regressions shows that the impact of bad behaviours is very similar in Britain, France and Spain.

CSPP School of Government & Public Policy U. of Strathclyde Glasgow G1 1XQ Scotland