PS: Political Science & Politics


Surviving Scandal: The Institutional and Political Dynamics of National and State Executive Scandals

Brandon Rottinghaus

University of Houston


Which factors shorten or lengthen the survival of a scandal involving a chief executive? Using new data tracking scandals involving presidents and governors from 1972 to 2011, I chart the duration of each political, personal, and financial scandal faced by an elected official, their staff, or nominees. I specifically examine institutional, political, and economic factors to investigate what factors quicken a “negative” end to a scandal. National chief executives and their staff are more likely to survive a scandal when they have more partisans in the legislature but are less likely when there is greater political opposition, however there is no comparative effect at the state level. Positive economic growth and public approval have no effect on survival of a scandal at either the national or state levels. These findings clarify how the political environment shapes the duration of executive scandal.

Brandon Rottinghaus is the Senator Don Henderson Scholar and Associate Professor in the department of political science at the University of Houston. He can be reached at