Long before the Panama leaks, nearly three quarters of Europeans (73%) had already endorsed the belief that bribery and connections are the easiest way to obtain public services in their respective countries. Furthermore, pan-European surveys revealed that nearly 7 out of 10 Europeans agreed that corruption was part of the business culture in their country (66% of respondents) and that favoritism and corruption hampered business competition (68% of respondents). But are such perceptions accurate, or do they reflect the general pessimism in times of austerity, uncertainty and growing inequality? This paper uses survey data to deconstruct perceptions of corruption, but also as a premiere uses fact-based data from new research projects on corruption and procurement to understand how much is real and how much is noise in the growing public perception of crony capitalism in Europe. The paper finds that individual perceptions are not disconnected with reality. Although people whose self-ascription places them in the lower part of a status scale are more inclined to perceive generalized corruption, most of the variance at both national and individual level is explained by fact based variables, for instance the number of non-competitive tenders per country.
This paper will be published in a forthcoming edited volume with Oxford University Press. Please cite as Mungiu-Pippidi, M. and Kukutschka, R. M. B (2018). Can a Civilization know its own institutional decline? A Tale of Indicators. In H. Anheier, M. Haber, and M. Kayser (eds), Governance Indicators: Approaches, Progress, Promise. Oxford: Oxford University Press.