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Does Exposure to Stereotype‐Disconfirming Politicians Reduce the Effect of Stereotypes on Voting? Evidence From Seven Plagiarism Scandals in Germany

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We examine whether exposure to several salient counterexamples reduces the effect of stereotypes on voting. By taking advantage of a series of seven plagiarism scandals in Germany—a country with high regard for academic credentials where academic titles (Dr. and Prof.) get printed on ballot papers—we test whether the tendency to vote for candidates with a doctor's title decreased in the wake of the scandals. Using cross‐sectional and longitudinal estimators and controlling for a large range of potential confounders, we find that the electoral advantage of candidates with a doctor's title shrinks from a good half of a percentage point before the scandals down to a third after the scandals. In line with a subtyping hypothesis, the reduction is stronger for candidates from traditional middle‐class parties (i.e., the parties of the politicians who were implicated in the scandals). Neither of these effects turns out to be strong enough to reach statistical significance, however. We conclude that seven negative examples in one legislative term had no noticeable effect on the tendency to select candidates based on academic titles. Our study provides a rare opportunity to test the effect of stereotype‐disconfirming information on electoral behavior. Our results contribute to a literature demonstrating the resilience of stereotypes to disconfirming information. They also suggest that plagiarism affairs are unlikely to reduce electoral incentives for politicians to obtain a fake doctorate.
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Keywords: Dr; doctor's degree; doctor's title; doctorate; electoral success; stereotype change; subtyping

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2018

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