DP77 Overcoming collective action problems through anti-corruption messages

Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper No. 77

By Caryn Peiffer and Grant Walton

February 2019

Anti-corruption campaigns often include an awareness raising component which highlights the negative consequences of corruption; the idea is that awareness will empower citizens to demand a change. However, experiences from developing countries suggest that messages that highlight corruption’s prevalence may actually backfire by adding to the belief that corruption is normal and an intractable collective action problem. In this paper, we present findings from a survey experiment conducted in Port Moresby with over 1500 respondents, to understand how Papua New Guineans might respond to different messages about corruption and anti-corruption. Each respondent was randomly assigned to a group where they either were not exposed to a message about corruption (control group) or had one of four messages read to them and were shown a picture that was tightly associated with the message. The messages, each a separate narrative, emphasised the legal, moral and communal aspects of corruption and anti-corruption in Papua New Guinea, as well as its ubiquity. Findings suggest that respondents are more likely to see corruption as widespread, have favourable attitudes about reporting corruption, and may be more willing to report corruption when they are exposed to anti-corruption messages that emphasise impacts to respondents’ local kinship groups. These findings have significant implications for those seeking to increase citizens’ willingness to respond to corruption in contexts where corruption resembles a collective action problem.

Peiffer, C. & Walton, G. 2019, ‘Overcoming collective action problems through anti-corruption messages’, Discussion Paper No. 77, Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra.

Caryn Peiffer

Caryn is a Lecturer in International Public Policy and Governance at the University of Bristol.

Grant Walton

Grant Walton is a fellow at the Development Policy Centre and the author of Anti-Corruption and its Discontents: Local, National and International Perspectives on Corruption in Papua New Guinea.