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Mass and elite attitudes towards corruption
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Nicholas Allen
Posted 13/6/2008 18:19 (#56)
Subject: Mass and elite attitudes towards corruption

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Research into political corruption is very much on the agenda, yet there has been surprisingly little research into corruption and misconduct in the European Parliament. There have also been surprisingly few comparative studies of elite and mass attitudes towards corruption; we are certainly unaware of any simultaneous cross-national survey of politicians and publics.

We propose that a small battery of relevant questions is included in the voter and candidate surveys that will enable us to tap corruption perceptions and normative attitudes towards corruption and to explore differences between candidates, including incumbent MEPs, and members of the public across Europe. For this reason, it is vital that the same set of questions is included on both questionnaires. We indicate those question that we would like to see included in both surveys as a matter of priority.

Proposed question 1 (priority)
This question is adapted from Transparency International’s annual Global Corruption Barometer, which asks respondents about levels of corruption in various national sectors, including the parliament/legislature. Asking this question will not only enable us to explore differences between candidates (including incumbent MEPs) and members of the public across Europe in terms of their perceptions about the extent of corruption in the European Parliament, but it will also enable us to compare their perceptions to responses to similar questions asked by Transparency International.

To what extent do you perceive the European Parliament to be affected by corruption? Please answer on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is not at all corrupt and 5 is extremely corrupt.

Proposed question 2
This question, if included, will enable us to explore differences between elite and mass perceptions of changes in the extent of corruption in the European Parliament.

Is it your impression that levels of corruption in the European Parliament have been increasing in recent years, or have they been declining? [Responses to include ‘increasing’, ‘stayed the same’, ‘declining’, ‘don’t know’.]

Proposed questions 3-9 (priority questions indicated)
The following questions are based largely on scenarios used by Mancuso (1995) in a study of British MPs’ ethical attitudes and in a follow-up study by Allen (2008). The exception is the last scenario, which is adapted from Welch and Peters’ study of US legislators’ normative attitudes towards corruption (1977). MEPs responses to most of these scenarios in 2009 could therefore be compared to British MPs’ responses in 2005. More generally, responses to these scenarios will enable us to control for the effect of normative attitudes on corruption perceptions.

Below is a list of hypothetical scenarios. Please answer on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is not at all corrupt and 7 is very corrupt, whether you feel that the behaviour described in each scenario is corrupt or not corrupt.

An MEP is issued a first-class airline ticket as part of a parliamentary delegation. He or she exchanges the ticket for an economy fare and pockets the difference. (priority)

An MEP hires his or her spouse or other family member to serve as his secretary. (priority)

An MEP requests and receives a parliamentary pass for a lobbyist, to act as a research assistant, although his or her services are paid for by an outside source. (priority)

An MEP is retained by a major company to arrange meetings and dinners in the European Parliament at which its executives can meet other MEPs. (priority)

At Christmas, an MEP accepts a crate of wine from an influential constituent.

An MEP uses his or her influence to get a friend or relative admitted to a prestigious university.

An MEP accepts a large campaign contribution in return for voting ‘the right way’ in a plenary vote.

NB A more detailed submission with full bibliographical details is attached.

Sarah Birch and Nicholas Allen (University of Essex)

Attachments Birch_Allen_submission.pdf (25KB - 2 downloads)
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