close× Call Us
close×
Title Politicians' Contentious and Institutional Responses to Scandals in their Party: Experimental Evidence from South Korea.
Post date 04/23/2017
C1 Background and Explanation of Rationale

How do politicians react to political crises that signi ficantly impact the quality and image of their parties? And how does the public perceive and evaluate these di fferent responses by politicians? This paper draws on Hirschman (1970)'s seminal concepts of exit, voice, and loyalty to examine which strategy - leaving the party or trying to fi x the problem within the party - is perceived as being more responsive to the electorate. Using an experimental survey design, we explore this question in the context of the recent political scandal in South Korea surrounding former President Park Geun-hye, which has generated heterogeneous response from the ruling Saenuri Party (SP) politicians. In the aftermath of the scandal, some SP politicians voiced their concerns by participating in anti-Park protests and/or making statements that criticized Park, while others exited the SP and created a new party called the Bareun Party. The remaining SP members decided to change its party name to Liberty Korea Party to dissociate themselves from Park's corruption scandal.

In post-transition South Korea (1987-present), there is no salient cleavage and parties and party leaders hold inconsistent and often contradictory positions given the impediments to party development under military rule (1961-1988) and bigger role played by civil society (and lesser role played by the opposition parties) during the democratic transition process (Wong, 2015). Whenever these parties foresaw or experienced an electoral setback, they responded with party merges, splits, and name changes to create a new image and secure new voters. The main conservative party, which is an authoritarian successor party (Loxton, 2015), has changed its name around 10 times while the main progressive (center-left) party (currently the Minjoo Party) has changed its identity 20 times since 1955 (The Wall Street Journal, 2016). While scholars have documented the volatility of party system in South Korea (e.g., Wong 2015; Choi 2012), to our knowledge, no study as actually examined the public perceptions of such strategies. If these tactics o ffer an e ffective way for politicians to distance themselves from a party with a deteriorating brand and preserve personal reputation, then arguably voters might be providing incentives for politicians to pursue strategies that further weaken the party system.

C2 What are the hypotheses to be tested?

Hypothesis 1: Voice:
H1A Protest and criticism will both translate into higher support for a candidate than staying in SP, now LKP (loyalty). Voters will also perceive a candidate who took part in candlelight protests and a candidate who criticized the party to be less corrupt than a candidate who stayed in SP.
H1B: Protest will increase support for the politician more than statements of criticism, especially among MP voters and people who themselves participated in candlelight protests. Eff ects of protest on perceptions of corruption will also be larger than e ffects of criticism.
Hypothesis 2: Exit: Leaving SP to join Bareun Party will increase support relative to staying in in SP (now LKP) and decrease assessment of candidate's corruption.

C3 How will these hypotheses be tested? *

Hypothesis tests will consist of difference-in-means tests, using an alpha of 0.05.

C4 Country South Korea
C5 Scale (# of Units) 1000
C6 Was a power analysis conducted prior to data collection? No
C7 Has this research received Insitutional Review Board (IRB) or ethics committee approval? Yes
C8 IRB Number Harvard University IRB16-2066
C9 Date of IRB Approval 2/24/2017
C10 Will the intervention be implemented by the researcher or a third party? Researchers
C11 Did any of the research team receive remuneration from the implementing agency for taking part in this research? No
C12 If relevant, is there an advance agreement with the implementation group that all results can be published? not provided by authors
C13 JEL Classification(s) not provided by authors