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Turning a Blind Eye to Scandal

Project description

Voters’ response to political scandals

Scandals and the immoral conduct of politicians decrease citizens’ trust in both politicians and the political system, resulting in discontent with the democratic representative system. However, some politicians are electorally punished by voters for immoral conduct while others are not. While understanding voters’ reactions to politicians’ immoral acts is crucial, the lack of consideration of voters’ moral identity and of studies on politicians’ moral violations in the frame of electoral campaigns limits our knowledge of political scandals. The EU-funded TURNEYES project delivers a demonstrable theoretical model of voter reaction to political scandal. It applies an interdisciplinary method by integrating social-psychological theories with political science theories of expressive partisanship and affective partisan polarisation and uses dynamic process tracing and psychological measures.


Why are some politicians electorally ‘punished’ for immoral behavior while others are not and how can we explain voters’ heterogeneous responses to identical moral transgressions? Despite decades of study, these two questions remain unanswered. Understanding voters' responses to politicians’ immoral behavior is important as scandals reduce citizens’ trust in both politicians and the political system, and lead to dissatisfaction with representative democracy. When politicians can avoid accountability for immoral actions, they may be personally protected from consequences, yet democracy itself suffers. Our knowledge of political scandals is seriously limited by (1) not considering voters’ moral principles and moral identity, (2) using self-reports of emotional responses and (3) not studying politicians’ moral violations in the context of complex election campaigns. This groundbreaking study, 'Turning a Blind Eye to Scandal’ provides a testable theoretical model of voter response to political scandal. It takes an interdisciplinary approach by (a) integrating social-psychological theories such as Moral Identity Theory and Moral Foundation Theory with political science theories of expressive partisanship and affective partisan polarization and (b) employing a unique multimethod design combining survey embedded vignette experiments with innovative laboratory experiments using Dynamic Process Tracing and psychophysiological measures. This study is the first to examine how voters’ responses to politicians’ moral transgressions -including voting behavior- are driven by (1) individual characteristics such as voters’ moral identity, moral principles and partisan identity, and (2) characteristics of the political context such as affective polarization. This fellowship brings together research expertise from the University of Nottingham and the University of Delaware and trains the applicant for cutting-edge research and future academic leadership in political psychology.


Net EU contribution
€ 271 732,80
University park
NG7 2RD Nottingham
United Kingdom

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East Midlands (England) Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Nottingham
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Partners (1)