Does corruption suppress voter turnout?*
This paper investigates to what extent voters’ perceptions of political corruption affect turnout. In previous research, two opposing views are put forward with regards to the relationship between corruption and turnout. On the one hand, corruption increases turnout because voters either are bought off to participate or because they are mobilized on clean government issues. On the other hand, corruption decreases turnout because presence of corruption corrodes the political system which leads to general cynicism, distrust and voter apathy. In this paper, we contribute to the existing research by adopting a multi-level approach to the relationship between corruption and turnout. We test the hypothesis that voters’ perceptions of corruption dampens turnout but that the effect is conditional upon the corruption context. We test our hypothesis by combining individual-level data and country-level data from 26 countries from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems and country-level data from the Quality of Government Data Set. The findings show that perceiving corruption negatively affects turnout, but only in countries with low to medium levels of system corruption.