Bad Presidents Are More Scandalous

From a new paper by the University of Georgia’s Ryan Carlin:

Why do some presidents emerge from a scandal unscathed while for others it may lead to a crisis of legitimacy? This question is crucial to understanding the conditions under which elected leaders are held accountable. This study proposes a theory of conditional accountability by which the public most consistently punishes presidents for scandals when the economy is weak. Under strong economic conditions, scandals do not tarnish presidents’ public standing. To test the theory, we use a new dataset that includes measures of scandals, presidential approval, and the economy for 84 presidential administrations in 18 Latin American countries. Consistent with our expectations, scandals only appear to damage presidential approval when inflation and unemployment are high.

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