Political Corruption in America: A Search for Definitions and a Theory, or If Political Corruption Is in the Mainstream of American Politics Why Is It Not in the Mainstream of American Politics Research?

John G. Peters, Susan Welch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Lack of a clear definition of political corruption has limited its systematic study by analysts of American politics. This article offers a conceptual framework with which to view corruption. A corrupt act is categorized by its four components: the donor, the favor, the public official and the payoff. For each component, propositions about perceived corrupt and noncorrupt elements can be formulated and tested. The usefulness of this scheme in analyzing attitudes about corruption is demonstrated with data from state legislators. Finally, the article suggests some future research possibilities using this scheme to compare elites and public or other groupings in the political system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)974-984
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1978


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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