Honesty above all else? Expectations and perceptions of political conduct in three established democracies

Nicholas Allen, Sarah Birch, Katja Sarmiento-Mirwaldt

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Many citizens across the liberal democratic world are highly critical of their elected representatives’ conduct. Drawing on original survey data from Britain, France and Germany, this paper offers a unique insight into prevailing attitudes across Europe’s three largest democracies. It finds remarkable consistencies in the ethical priorities of British, French and German citizens: although there is some individual-level variation, respondents in all three countries overwhelmingly prioritise having honest representatives. It also finds differences in the types of behaviour that cause most concern in each country. The paper then examines how individuals’ preferences shape their concerns about prevailing standards. The findings are consistent with the idea that citizens’ predispositions have an ‘anchoring’ effect on perceptions of political integrity. Finally, the paper considers whether established democracies are susceptible to an ‘expectations gap’ between citizens’ expectations of conduct and what ‘normal’ politics can realistically deliver.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-534
Number of pages24
JournalComparative European Politics
Issue number3
Early online date16 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

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