Same scandal, different interpretations: politics of corruption, anger, and partisan bias in Mexico
Rodrigo Castro Cornejo, Profesor Investigador Titular de la División de Estudios Políticos del CIDE, escribió Same scandal, different interpretations: politics of corruption, anger, and partisan bias in Mexico en el Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties.
Instead of focusing on “why voters appear to tolerate rather than punish” as most previous literature, this paper advances an alternative explanation: it seeks to explain how voters process information about corruption. Consistent with research on public opinion formation, this paper argues that voters can perceive the same event and make different interpretation about its meaning. Based on an original survey experiment conducted during the 2018 presidential election in Mexico, this study finds that citizens hold partisan attitudes and are motivated to protect these partisan predispositions, which make them interpret common events in different way. In particular, when this study informed voters that an unnamed candidate engaged in corruption, respondents unequivocally considered such actions as corrupt. However, when the name of their co-partisan candidate was explicitly mentioned as engaging in the same activities, voters rejected to qualify them as corrupt. Partisans are not “tolerating” or “condoning” corruption; partisans tend to choose interpretations that rationalize their partisan priors and justify their co-partisans’ behavior.