U.S. Impeachment Inquiry Amid Declining Executive Oversight and Increased Executive Malpractice

Dec. 2, 2019 Weekly Graphs

The impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Trump is now entering its 11th week. This week we use the V-Dem Country Graph tools to look at indicators related to checks on the executive and corruption within the United States over the past 50 years.

The first graph includes three indicators: ‘Executive respects constitution’, ‘Executive bribery and corrupt exchanges’, and ‘Executive embezzlement and theft’. All three indicators range from 0 to 4, where higher values represent a higher level of respect for the constitution and a lack of executive wrongdoing. Over the past 50 years, values on these indicators remained fairly steady, but we can observe a sharp downturn on all three between 2016 and 2017, coinciding with the first year of the Trump administration. The largest of these drops is for ‘Executive embezzlement and theft’, which declined from 3.88 to 2.63.

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The second graph shows the indicators for ‘Executive oversight’ and ‘Legislature investigates in practice’. Both are also rated on a scale of 0 to 4, where higher values indicate the likelihood of an investigation if the executive has done something unconstitutional, illegal, or unethical. While the overall trend of the indicators is positive, there is also a significant drop from 2016 to 2017. No similar drop is seen at the times leading up or during the Nixon or Clinton impeachment inquiries. 

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The downward trend for all five indicators suggests that the executive branch of the United States has had higher instances of corruption and less respect for the constitution over the past few years, but is less likely to be investigated for these actions compared to what the norm was over the past half-century.

Will the current impeachment inquiry prompt an increase on the ‘Legislature investigates in practice’ indicator for the U.S. in 2019? Check out the V-Dem v10 data release in March 2020 to find out!

To learn more about these and other indicators, visit v-dem.net.

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