Corruption and voter turnout: A spatial econometric approach

Donald J. Lacombe, R. Morris Coats, William F. Shughart, Gökhan Karahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


An FBI sting investigation, from 1984 through 1987, called “Operation Pretense” exposed extensive corruption amongst Mississippi’s county supervisors. In response, Mississippi’s legislature asked voters in the November 1988 general election to choose between the then-prevalent “beat system” of county governance and a more centralized “unit system” thought to be less corruption-prone. Voters opted for the unit system in 47 of Mississippi’s 82 counties. We use spatial econometric techniques to examine voter turnout rates in that election. We compare spatial econometric and ordinary least squares models: both reveal that, ceteris paribus, revelations of supervisor corruption influenced voter turnout rates positively at the county level. However, we find no relationship between corruption and voters’ beat-unit choices using spatial econometric techniques — suggesting that voters did not go to the polls to punish corrupt politicians, but were motivated by candidates’ and parties’ greater electioneering efforts to gain access to or to protect corruption rents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-185
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Regional Analysis and Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016


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