Date of Award

8-1-2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Whaley, Rachel

Abstract

Past research has confirmed the importance of structural and individual-level factors in predicting voter turnout and citizen trust in the government. In international research particularly, political corruption has been shown to negatively affect citizen trust, though the effect of corruption on voter turnout is mixed. To date, no research has examined the effect of corruption on voting and government trust in the United States over a relatively long period of time. In this dissertation, I aim to answer two primary research questions: how U.S. corruption affects voting and how it affects citizen trust in the government. Using many sources of data for state-level variables, and the American National Election Study (NES) for individual-level variables, I investigate these relationships using multilevel modeling (MLM) of forty-six states and approximately 22,000 individuals in my analysis of voting and forty-one states and about 7,000 individuals in my analysis of political trust. I find that corruption has a small, but significant, negative effect on voting. Surprisingly, I find no effect of corruption on a citizen’s political trust, even after assessing the impact of corruption on four other specifications of trust. I also investigate cross-level interaction effects for each analysis, and find no significant results. I conclude with a discussion of possible explanations for these findings, make policy recommendations with the knowledge gained from this research, and offer suggestions for future investigations.

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