This paper examines the response of voters to candidates who have reported that they have criminal charges against them, within the framework of a simple analytical model which assumes that criminal charges give rise to some stigma amongst the electorate, and result in a negative effect on vote shares. Campaigning, the cost of which is borne from candidates’ wealth, helps a candidate to increase his or her expected vote share by winning over the “marginal” voter. A criminal candidate gets an additional benefit since he can use the campaigning to convince voters of his innocence, and so reduce the negative effects of the stigma associated with criminal charges. We test the implications of the model using data for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections in India, and find support for all the implications of the model. Our empirical results show that voters do penalise candidates with criminal charges; however, this negative effect is reduced if there are other candidates in the constituency with criminal charges; besides, the vote shares are positively related to candidate wealth, with the marginal effect being higher for the candidates with criminal charges.
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