Do anticorruption messages work? Findings so far and what they could mean for Papua New Guinea

23rd March 2017

Anticorruption posters and billboards are common sights around the world. Most anticorruption programs now include an awareness-raising element. The hope is that anticorruption messages – whether shared via posters, radio or TV, for example – will inspire citizens to refuse to pay bribes and to report any corruption they encounter.

But there is so far little evidence available to tell us how effective these messages are. Some scholars have argued that they might even backfire and discourage the reporting of corruption. Could such messages simply prompt people to recall preconceived views that corruption is a widespread, insurmountable problem?

A new DLP research project in collaboration with the Australian National University’s Development Policy Centre will explore whether these hopes or fears hold water in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The context in PNG is particularly difficult for anticorruption policymakers, as a recent study by my co-researcher Grant Walton confirmed.

For a start, its citizens have many different definitions of what ‘corrupt’ means. So, even if anticorruption awareness-raising is effective, the risk is that the ‘corrupt’ acts that Papua New Guineans focus on may not necessarily be those – such as bribery or fraud – that anticorruption campaigners hope to target.

Together we recently also looked at PNG citizens’ willingness to report corruption. Using 2010-2011 household survey data and quantitative analysis, we asked which factors influenced willingness to report several different types of corrupt acts, and to what extent. A key finding was that citizens were less likely to be willing to report corruption if they lacked trust that the authorities would take action as a result. This suggests that in PNG an awareness-raising approach may have little effect. In the 2010-11 household survey, 38% of the 1,825 respondents agreed with the statement, ‘There is no point in reporting corruption because nothing useful will be done about it.’

Our new study in PNG will be informed by my most recent findings from a pilot study in Indonesia. This set out to explore whether different anticorruption messages influence people’s views about corruption and about anticorruption efforts.

From a survey sample of 1,500 households in Jakarta, respondents were randomly assigned to five groups. Four groups were each asked to read a different awareness-raising message on corruption while the fifth, the control group, were not given a message. All respondents then answered the same set of questions.

Two messages were positive: one described government successes in fighting corruption and another emphasised how easily ordinary citizens could report and get involved in the fight against corruption. The other two messages were more negative: they focused on high-profile grand corruption scandals and on statistics about widespread petty corruption in Indonesia.

... the messages were quite influential – but not in the way we might expect. It made little difference whether individuals were exposed to positive or negative messages.

Initial analysis shows that the messages were quite influential – but not in the way we might expect.  It made little difference whether individuals were exposed to positive or negative messages. All the messages heightened respondents’ worries about how much damage corruption was doing to development in Indonesia. They reduced respondents’ pride in the government’s efforts to fight corruption and, perhaps most importantly, reduced their belief that ordinary citizens could easily join the fight against corruption.

It seems so far, then, that any message about corruption or anticorruption might reduce citizens’ sense of being able to help tackle corruption. Why might that be the case?

One possible explanation is that, as a number of scholars have highlighted, people may discount information that does not fit with views they have already formed. So if people already see corruption as an insurmountable problem, even a ‘positive’ anticorruption message may simply prompt them to recall their existing negative perception.

Our new study in PNG will investigate this potential risk further. It will be based on a survey sample of 1,000 household respondents in Port Moresby. As in Jakarta, we will split the sample of participants into five groups and put each through a similar process, though the messages about corruption and anticorruption will be tailored specifically to PNG. For instance, they will take into account contextual issues such as the importance of religious faith and PNG’s ethnic diversity.

We hope that analysis of the responses will offer practical assistance to anticorruption work in PNG, particularly in the problematical area of how to draft messages that encourage citizens to fight corruption. If, however, we find that anticorruption messages prove to have no impact or to backfire, then campaigners and policymakers will at least know that resources earmarked for awareness raising could be redirected.

Read more in this 3-page brief on the potential implications for PNG (pdf) and in the author's new DLP paper on findings from Jakarta (pdf).

Image: Part of an anticorruption poster in PNG (Raymond June)

0 Comments

Leave a comment

The views expressed in Opinions posts are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of DLP, the Australian Government or DLP's partner organisations.

Author

Caryn Peiffer

Caryn Peiffer

DLP Research Fellow Dr Caryn Peiffer has written DLP papers on the politics of state-business relations, reform coalitions for growth, and on corruption. Caryn examined the determinants of bribe payments as part of the Global Experience of Corruption project (University of Strathclyde). She has carried out research for Transparency International, DFID, AFD, and SIDA, and has worked in India, Zambia and Botswana.

Read more

Related items

Perceptions of women in politics in Fiji: how to accelerate change?

Women are widely seen as entirely capable of taking on political leadership in Fiji; however, when asked to think about 'leaders', the public imagination automatically sees a man in the role.

Opinion by Rachel Fairhurst20th January 2015

Connections, contradictions and the political economy of attention

How can we encourage creativity, even in risk-averse organisations? How can we protect our attention resources?

I listened to two interesting LSE podcasts recently which got me thinking more about creativity following on from a recent blog I posted about the current interest in innovation. Some even suggest the ‘innovation imperative’ is a mega trend.

Opinion by Chris Roche7th May 2015

What do we do on Monday? Political settlements in theory and practice

The political settlements framework can seem a distraction to some practitioners, many of whom have been thinking and working politically about development for a number of years. They find the term difficult to define with any precision and, in any case, quite unnecessary. In the real world, progress towards better understanding of and engagement with the political conditions which help and hinder development has been ticking along nicely, independently of the academic debates.

Opinion by Edward Laws15th July 2015

The road to transparency in resource-rich Myanmar

Myanmar's resource management transparency process has joined government, business and civil society actors in collective action for the first time.  

Opinion by Taylor Brown1st April 2016

The challenge of realising Pacific democracies' development potential

Bringing to the fore some of the unique problems faced by the Pacific region.

Opinion by Julien Barbara8th July 2016

It's all about inclusion, but how?

Shifting the focus of development intervention from form to the actual practice and distribution of power. (Guest post for the World Bank Governance for Development blog)

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal6th April 2016

From functional governance to sustainable peace: Making the space to reflect, learn and adapt

Learning how to balance the technically possible and politically feasible in volatile, conflict-affected contexts.

Opinion by Aditi Haté 22nd February 2017

Higher education in the post-2015 agenda: proof that it matters

Taking stock of recent research evidence that shows how higher education can feed into political stability and civil engagement.

Opinion by Susy Ndaruhutse11th September 2014

'Sticky’ change: What international development can learn from adaptive management

Promoting and sustaining individual behavioural change is as important as building flexibility into development programming.

Opinion by Greg Power2nd December 2016

Corruption: do we target the servant or the paymaster?

Corruption can only be fought effectively with a coherent strategy collectively supported by all actors. (Guest post for The Guardian on UK aid watchdog report)

Opinion by Heather Marquette5th November 2014

Developmental leaders, 'dirty hands', and the dark side of collaboration

Should donors support developmental leaders who gain or keep power through questionable means? 

Opinion by Niheer Dasandi11th December 2013

Neither 'good guys' nor 'bad guys': Positive engagement with armed groups

The final post in our short series on 'Power, Politics and Positive Deviance', the theme of our 2016 Annual Conference at La Trobe University, Melbourne, on Monday (8 February).

Opinion by Suda Perera5th February 2016

Two remarkable transitions: lessons from Oman and Somaliland

We tend to look through the political settlements lens only at places experiencing either conflict or deep poverty – or both. Yet we would know much more about how useful the lens is if we examined more successes with it. Areas of stability and calm, especially in regions where near neighbours seem to be struggling to resolve strife, might teach us something about how historical experiences do or don’t chime with contemporary donor practices.

Opinion by Sarah Phillips20th July 2015

The International Budget Partnership: Reflecting on two decades of campaigning for fiscal governance reform

Focusing on budget accountability ‘ecosystems’ and their influence on budget decision-making and implementation.

Opinion by Brendan Halloran20th December 2016

Overcoming premature evaluation

Sometimes failure is the first stop on the road to success for development programming. (Guest post in From Poverty to Power)

Opinion by Chris Roche15th November 2016

Anti-corruption in Bolivia: fighting greed – or attitudes?

Unsurprisingly, when people are asked about corruption, they say they are against it. But that doesn’t tell us what they really think about it, or what they do when confronted with it.   

Opinion by Nieves Zúñiga29th June 2015

International donors - aiding or abetting?

In September 2012, lawyers representing an Ethiopian farmer announced that they planned to sue the UK government for its role in human rights violations in Ethiopia. The farmer, named in court papers as “Mr O”, alleged that the Ethiopian government’s “villagisation” programme had involved the forced resettlement of thousands of families including his own.

Opinion by Niheer Dasandi10th September 2015

Development - getting our story straight

Replacing the traditional aid narrative with a more grown-up - and more inspiring - development story. 

Opinion by Alex Frankel20th April 2016

Fragmentation of the Thinking and Working Politically agenda: Should we worry?

Many different paths, but all leading to similar destinations - and adding useful nuance to development thinking and practice.  

Opinion by Thomas Parks29th August 2016

Coalitions for inclusion in Indonesia: communities and government tackling discrimination together

Following up to Luke Arnold on coalitions for disability inclusion in Indonesia, Angie Bexley introduces broader work on the inclusion of six marginalised groups.

Opinion by Angie Bexley22nd August 2016

Authoritarianism, democracy and development

What does the evidence say about whether giving aid to a high-achieving authoritarian regime makes good developmental sense? 

Opinion by Tim Kelsall27th November 2014

Beyond perceptions of corruption?

Efforts to understand corruption - and eradicate it - are beset by two core problems. Corruption is hard to define without straying into the subjective; and it's difficult to build robust methodologies to investigate it.

Opinion by Caryn Peiffer5th February 2015

Inclusive political settlements: who and what gets included, and how?

DLP hosted a day-long high level introductory workshop on political settlements in June. This post is the first of a series inspired by the workshop and written by researchers, policymakers and practitioners. Here Alina Rocha Menocal discusses current research and thinking on the usefulness of a political settlements approach.

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal13th July 2015

Development cooperation and fighting corruption: thinking differently

Everyone associates Brazil with football and the World Cup. Brazilians pouring out onto the street last summer to protest the competition being hosted in their country was last thing many of us expected to see.

Opinion by Heather Marquette24th June 2015

From objects of care to controllers of lives: governance, development and disability inclusion

The next step on from a rights-based approach to disability inclusion is to hand over control to those who know best - people with disabilities.

Opinion by Luke Arnold25th May 2016
Opinion by Heather Marquette13th October 2015

Does talking about corruption make it seem worse?

Guest post for The Guardian's Global Development Professionals Network

Indonesia and the political settlements trap

When your office is in Jakarta, you get a lot of time to day-dream in taxis while going from hotel to office and back again. I am just back from a couple of weeks working there and I marvelled at the traffic, the tech-savvy population and the profusion of swanky hotels. On one long journey I got to musing about the challenges facing Indonesia’s efforts to shift itself upwards in the World Bank’s country classification database.

Opinion by Graham Teskey17th July 2015

Do anticorruption messages work? Findings so far and what they could mean for Papua New Guinea

How do anticorruption messages influence people’s views about corruption and about anticorruption efforts?

Opinion by Caryn Peiffer23rd March 2017

Fixing aid: we can't turn off the tap at the first sign of corruption

Much 'petty' corruption is about the poor using what little power they have to stave off destitution. (Guest post for The Conversation)

Opinion by Heather Marquette10th November 2014

Our money, our projects: Demand-driven community development

Emerging lessons from the Central Land Council’s community development program to strengthen Aboriginal people’s participation in mainstream Australia.

Opinion by David Ross15th April 2016

Education, development, and the problem with consensus

Why rethink the international consensus on 'quality basic education for development'?

Opinion by Michele Schweisfurth7th April 2014

Corruption? The developing world has bigger problems

More nuanced anti-corruption work should focus on results - and even put up with some corruption if things are working well. (Guest post for Prospect)

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal26th April 2016

‘Crows who come in search of dollars’: NGO legitimacy in conflict zones

Do political dynamics affect NGO legitimacy more than performance?

Opinion by Oliver Walton19th August 2014

Corruption: unpacking the black box of political will

New thinking on the reasons why individuals engage in corruption - including the pragmatic calculation that, right or wrong, corruption may be the only solution to pressing difficulties. 

Opinion by Heather Marquette12th January 2015

Is developmental patrimonialism a dead end?

The key role of leadership succession rules and effective institutions in sustaining the success of high-growth autocracies.

Opinion by Tim Kelsall27th September 2016

Using aid to strengthen Parliaments: fix the car, or worry about the driver?

Parliaments have always been treated as the poor cousins of democracy assistance efforts. (Guest post for From Poverty to Power)

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal24th November 2014

Don't give up on government

Can the World Bank's flagship World Development Report inspire a good governance revolution that delivers development gains?

Opinion by Dan Hymowitz3rd February 2017

Different development: walk the talk

Spent the day at a ‘Doing Development Differently’ event recently and, while it offered a great opportunity to meet and hear from fascinating, dedicated, thoughtful people, I came away somewhat disheartened. Why? Because:

Opinion by Gillian Fletcher14th April 2015

Parliamentary strengthening: the IDC report

The need for parliamentary strengthening has never been more urgent, since parliaments - and the political parties that populate them - are the institutions people trust least. (Guest post for ODI's Shaping Policy for Development blog)

 

Opinion by Tam O'Neil9th February 2015
Opinion by Heather Marquette9th March 2015

Innovation: transactional or transformative?

Innovation has become a popular word in international development. In Australia today, Bjorn Lomborg helped to formally open DFAT’s development innovation hub innovationXchange, which is designed to ‘identify, trial and scale up successful approaches’. Other donors, including the US and the UK, are also promoting innovation through initiatives like the Development Innovation Ventures programme.

Opinion by Chris Roche23rd March 2015

Where do inclusive institutions come from? Lessons from Asia

Societies with more inclusive institutions are more peaceful and more resilient, and tend to be better governed - but how do they get there?

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal27th February 2017

Masculinity and sexual violence in India

The brutal rape and murder in December 2012 of a 23-year-old student in a Delhi bus has been the catalyst for rapidly evolving activism against sexual violence in India.

Opinion by Martin Rew16th September 2015

Identifying rebels with a cause (and effect)

The Developmental Leadership Program will host its 2016 Annual Conference at La Trobe University in Melbourne on 8 February. Its theme is ‘Power, Politics and Positive Deviance’.

Opinion by Chris Roche1st December 2015

Political analysis as the practical art of the possible

Bringing politics back into PEA - a new paper with Adrian Leftwich

Opinion by David Hudson24th July 2014

DLP political settlements workshop: reflections

Serendipity, perhaps. I joined the Political Settlements Research Programme at the beginning of June; my first formal engagement was on June 17, at the Political Settlements Workshop organised by the Developmental Leadership Program. It was quite an induction day.

Opinion by Astrid Jamar22nd July 2015

Time for a grown-up conversation about corruption

To combat corruption, we need to understand the deeper political realities, power dynamics and social structures that perpetuate it.

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal9th December 2014

When the stars align to tackle inequality: reflections on the DLP annual conference

From the Occupy Movement to Thomas Piketty to current proposals for a new set of Sustainable Development Goals, inequality has emerged as one of the most intractable challenges of our time, and everyone, from activists to academics to policymakers, is talking about it. 

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal18th February 2015

Politics shape services; and services shape politics

How governance and sector specialists can help each other understand the politics of service delivery

Opinion by Richard Batley19th June 2014

Corruption: is the right message getting through?

A couple of years ago, Cote d’Ivoire’s government erected striking black and orange billboards around Abidjan that carried messages like “It destroyed my region” and “It killed my son”

Opinion by Caryn Peiffer12th August 2015

Why are Africa's poor more likely than the rich to pay a bribe for public services?

The poor aren't simply 'easy targets' - they necessarily come into contact with corrupt state officials more often.

Opinion by Caryn Peiffer19th January 2017

How quality secondary and higher education can improve national leadership: lessons from Ghana

New DLP research poses the question of whether the focus of the international development community on primary education is too narrow.

Opinion by Amir Jones25th March 2014

Is education a magic bullet for addressing corruption? Insights from Papua New Guinea

This post for Devpolicy unpacks the findings of a new Development Policy Centre / DLP paper 

Opinion by Grant Walton17th June 2015