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For the common good or private interests? People’s views of political integrity in the European Union

Political corruption scandals, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, have shown that decision-makers and corporate interests often collude at the expense of ordinary people in the European Union (EU). This collusion leads to poorer services for citizens and decisions that go against public interest on issues ranging from climate change to education and taxation.

While this complicity and undue influence may happen behind closed doors and in subtle forms, ordinary citizens can see when resources and outcomes are skewed in favour of certain groups. This leads to lower levels of trust and the perception that the system lacks political integrity.

Political integrity means exercising power consistently in the common good, rather than to sustain private interests or the wealth or position of powerful individuals.

This working paper introduces a new measure, People’s Perceptions of Political Integrity (PPPI), in order to understand how different countries in the EU are faring and to identify the main factors that affect these perceptions. The PPPI is based on five survey questions asked as part of the Global Corruption Barometer – EU 2021 survey.

The PPPI shows that people in the EU perceive a widespread and systemic lack of political integrity. The average country score on the PPPI is 48 out of 100, where 0 is the lowest and 100 is the highest possible score. Even the top-performing countries sharing first place, Finland and Sweden, score only 67 points out of 100.