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Government Corruption Viewed as Pervasive Worldwide

Government Corruption Viewed as Pervasive Worldwide

by Jan Sonnenschein and Julie Ray

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- People in countries worldwide perceive government corruption as a widespread problem. This includes countries with a free press -- an indicator of good governance and development -- and those where media freedom is limited. Among countries with a free press, the percentage of adults who say corruption is widespread in their government reaches as high as 94% in the Czech Republic and as low as 14% in Sweden.


Questions about corruption are so sensitive in some countries that even if Gallup is allowed to ask them, the results may reflect residents' reluctance to criticize their government. This is particularly true in countries where media freedom is restricted, which is why it is appropriate to look at perceptions through lenses such as Freedom House's Press Freedom rankings. However, regardless of their press freedom, Gallup's latest Global States of Mind report shows majorities in 108 out of 129 countries surveyed in 2012 say corruption is widespread in their government.

"Free" Press Countries: Europeans Least Likely to Perceive Corruption

Among countries with a free press, the "bottom 10" that are least likely to view government corruption as widespread are mostly European. In fact, Danes and Swedes are among the least likely worldwide to see corruption as a problem in their governments. Scandinavians traditionally see their governments as being relatively free of corruption.

At the same time, other European countries such as the Czech Republic and Lithuania lead the "top 10," with adults in each country nearly universally seeing government corruption as a problem. Extremely high levels of perceived government corruption are nothing new in Lithuania. Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International has repeatedly criticized the country's lack of progress in reining in corruption in the healthcare sector, police, and municipal government.

In the Czech Republic, on the other hand, the percentage of residents perceiving government graft as widespread has increased by 15 percentage points since 2007. The recent corruption scandal that rocked the country and triggered Prime Minister Petr Necas' resignation this June underlines the magnitude of the problem in the country.

Besides four other European countries, Ghana, South Africa, Costa Rica, and South Korea are among the "free press countries" with the highest levels of perceived government corruption. Over the past years, the public in these countries has viewed corruption as being commonplace. Yet, in South Korea and Ghana, perceptions of government corruption have reached new heights in 2012 after the revelation of major corruption scandals involving some of the countries' top officials. Although the U.S. does not make the "top 10" list, it is not far from the top. Seventy-three percent of Americans say corruption is pervasive in their government.

"Partly Free" Press Countries: Few Georgians and Hong Kongers See Widespread Issue

Among countries with a partly free press, residents of Georgia and Hong Kong are the least likely to say that corruption is widespread in their government. However, attitudes in both have shifted over the years. Hong Kongers have traditionally viewed their government as clean, but the percentage saying corruption is widespread has doubled since 2011. This change may be related to the disclosure of one of the biggest corruption scandals in Hong Kong in decades involving two real estate magnates and a senior government official in mid-2012.

Georgians, on the other hand, have not always seen the situation this way. The 25% who view government corruption as widespread in 2012 is half the 52% who perceived this in 2007. This drop likely reflects the remarkable progress the World Bank says Georgia has made in fighting graft in its public services since the Rose Revolution in late 2003.


At the other end of the spectrum, at least nine in 10 residents of Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda feel that corruption is widespread in their governments -- consistent with their attitudes in past years. One European Union member state, Greece, also made it to the top of the list, with 92% believing government corruption is pervasive. The Greek debt crisis exposed rampant corruption and mismanagement, which may help explain why the percentage saying the government is corrupt jumped 22 points between 2007 and 2009.

"Not Free" Press Countries: Few Rwandans and Singaporeans See Corruption Problem

Among the group of countries whose press is not free, residents of Rwanda and Singapore are the least likely to say corruption is widespread in their governments. Both countries are often regarded as role models when it comes to fighting graft. According to the World Bank, Rwanda has made significant progress in recent years after the government placed anti-corruption efforts at the top of its agenda. Singapore's systematic fight against corruption started as early as 1959 after attaining self-governance.


On the other extreme, about nine in 10 residents in Chad, Cameroon, and Honduras say corruption is commonplace in their governments -- consistent with perceptions since Gallup started surveying them in 2006.


Gallup's data do not show any tangible improvements in perceptions of government corruption on a global level over the past several years. At first sight, these findings appear disappointing in the light of growing global anti-corruption efforts such as the G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan or the U.S. government's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Yet, increased transparency and corruption controls might have contributed to increasing public awareness of government corruption, which could explain the stagnation in global corruption perceptions. Improving these perceptions is likely to be a long-term task.

See page 2 for full country-level results.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact us.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults per country, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2012 in 129 countries. For results based on the total samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranges from ±1.7 percentage points to ±5.6 percentage points.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.


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