In-group loyalty and the punishment of corruption

Hector Solaz, Catherine E. De Vries*, Roosmarijn A. de Geus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study suggests that in-group loyalty, defined as the degree to which people favor their own group over others, undermines the punishment of corruption. We present evidence from two studies. First, we utilize a real-world corruption scandal involving the ruling party in Spain that broke during survey fieldwork. People exposed to the scandal withhold support from the incumbent, but in-group loyalty based on partisanship weakens this effect. Second, we explore in-group loyalty beyond partisanship through laboratory experiments. These experiments artificially induce group identities, randomly assign the group identity of candidates and shut down any instrumental benefits of in-group loyalty. The experimental evidence suggests that people support corrupt candidates as long as they share a group identity and are willing to sacrifice material payoffs to do so. Our findings have important implications. Most importantly perhaps, they suggest that candidates can get away with corruption by engaging in identity politics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)896-926
Number of pages31
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number6
Early online date19 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • and voting behavior
  • corruption and patronage
  • elections
  • European politics
  • public opinion


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