Where bribery works, charted

Bribery may not get you far here.
Bribery may not get you far here.
Image: AP Photo/Felipe Dana
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From the corruption charges that have swirled around Brazil’s national oil company during the lead-up to this year’s presidential election, you might think the home of the 2014 FIFA World Cup is a beehive of bribery.

Yet Brazilians are the least likely of people in 44 nations to rate paying bribes as important for getting ahead in life, according to a survey released recently by the Pew Research Center.

Brazilians assign bribery an average score of 0.8 on a scale between 0 and 10, where 10 means very important and 0 means not important at all.

When it comes to trading money for influence, China tops the list. People in the world’s biggest economy give bribery an average rating of 5.5 on the scale. China was followed by Jordanians (5.0) and Russians (4.5).

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Besides Brazil, people in El Salvador (1.4) and Columbia (1.5) assign bribery the least weight as an avenue for advancement.

In the US, where critics of the Supreme Court’s striking down campaign-finance laws have argued that the country has legalized large-scale political bribery, people place the value of paying bribes at 2.5 on the 10-point scale.

Attitudes about bribery also vary within countries. For example, in Tunisia, where giving bribes rates a 4.1, more people choose 0 or 10 than a rating in between, the researchers found.

By contrast, there’s consensus in China, where half the people surveyed rated bribery between 6 and 9. President Xi Xinping seems determined to change that. He is leading an anti-corruption campaign that has set state-owned enterprises against one another and prompted a series of public officials to take their own lives; though some have accused the government of using it as an excuse to purge rivals.

Bootstraps still matter though: Even in China and other countries where people think that giving bribes helps them ahead, most think that education and hard work make a bigger difference.