Report says 7% of US paid a bribe to a public body in the last year. Who? What?

According to this report, 7% of Americans admitted to paying a bribe to a public body in the last year.


Maybe I live in naiveland. I always imagined bribery in America to be things like real estate developers and powerful businesses paying bribes to local officials and politicians for special treatment. But in terms of percentage of the population, that would be a very low number, less than 1%.

Seven percent of the US population is way more than I expected. Who are these people and who are they bribing? If I wanted to bribe someone, I have no idea who I could try to bribe that wouldn’t report me. The cop that pulls me over for speeding in a school zone? I presume I would get hauled into jail for trying something like that.

Enlighten me!
Note: I do not condone bribing and I am not trying to figure out how to bribe public officials. This statistic (for what its worth) seems so strange to me. I am very curious.

Could they be talking about waiters and waitresses, lap dancers, cab drivers, etc? Then maybe 7% but I can’t think of a single instance of bribery to a public official that I know of personally in my lifetime.

Those numbers look way off to me as well. The U.S. is at 7% but Italy is at 5%? I am not buying it. I wouldn’t know how to bribe someone if I needed to and no one else I know would either.

You can get more detailed data and see their methodology on this page. It even has an Excel spreadsheet with the actual question by year. I am still not seeing anything that should apply to 7% of the U.S. population however.

Chicago throws off the curve.

Just a nitpick but rather than an actual count, the 7% figure is based on a survey. So, 7% of Americans have claimed they have paid a bribe to a public body in the last year.

WAG: for purposes of the news report, that’s probably good enough. You can track survey results and get a good general idea of how much bribery is going on in different countries and how it changes with time. Also, considering that more than 5% of Americans surveyed claim the moon landings were faked, the amount of noise from those who see reality differently from the rest of us must be pretty high.

So were I to bake cookies for the nice people at the public library, I’d be considered as having bribed a public official?

Also seems to include tipping, if you want it to, or not. Etc.

Halfway down this page is a small purple pie. Passing the mouse cursor over the pie wedges shows “15% (of Americans?) reported paying a bribe to the Judiciary”, “14% (of Americans?) reported paying a bribe to the Registry and Permit Services,” etc.

Seems impossible, unless “bribe” is defined broadly enough to include “fee.” (Moreover, the way the data is embedded into the purple pie mouseovers seems so stupid, I’d be willing to discount the whole site. :smiley: )

Perhaps they’re including people who give a Christmas tip to their mail carrier?

In NJ, bribes are conveniently added to your tax bill. We like our crime organized. :cool:

I was going to make a similar joke, but, in seriousness, I don’t really see that kind of “everyday” bribery that used to be legendary here. (Like bribing cops to get you off a speeding ticket. Apparently, once commonplace, but I wouldn’t dare and don’t know anyone who would dare do it these days.) That said, I do know of some isolated bribery, but I can’t believe even the Chicago rate for bribery is higher than 1% or so.

Now, in Central/Eastern Europe, bribery was just a way of life. I personally have never had to pay a bribe, but I have seen them, and I have delicately offered (but the cop didn’t take the bait, and I ended up getting off anyway.) My favorite was my ex-girlfriend’s brother getting pulled over, apologizing to the police officer that he only had 2,000 forint (about $10 at the time) and offering to go to an ATM, to which the cop just accepted the cash, saying, “Now, we’re not all that greedy.”

Its not a tax or a bribe. Its a surcharge.

Just like you, I was shocked to see 7% for the US - I expected 0% or maybe 1%.

When I was a kid (20 years ago) I got pulled over and when the cop was clearly going to give me a ticket I asked him if I could just pay the fine to him - he said no that I would have to pay at the courthouse. That’s the closest encounter I’ve had with “bribery” (if you want to call it that) in the US.

I’ve never met anyone (and I do have some shady friends) who has claimed to bribe anyone in the States.

My opinion is that it’s way too risky, especially these days, for anyone to offer a bribe or to take one. Everyone has a camera, and a YouTuber would love nothing more than to post a video of a cop or politician taking a bribe. On the other side, why would anyone offer a bribe? Usually the fines for speeding and parking are much less than you would have to offer to get someone to risk their whole livelihood for.

I don’t believe for a second that bribery is nonexistent in the US, but I would have to think that any bribes happening are way above my head at the level of getting a major city construction contract or something involving millions of dollars. Even if that type of bribery is rampant, how on earth do they come up with 7% of respondents?

The only other explanation I can think of is people answering to achieve some political end… Like, “I pay too much for health insurance, and I know some of that money is used to bribe those dirty politicians in Washington. So, yes, I do pay bribes!”

I did find this… so maybe these are the kinds of bribes people are paying:

A taxi fleet owner isn’t a public body though, is it?

The ones in that article aren’t bribes to public officials however. They are within a private company. I would argue that they aren’t real bribes either in the usual sense. It is really just enforced tip sharing and business rules like where the cab drivers have to buy gas that help the owners make more money. It may be crappy but there probably isn’t anything illegal about it.

I agree - it doesn’t really fit. I’m just trying to come up with a reasonable explanation.

  1. I’m naive (and yes, white) and simply have been lucky to not be exposed to corruption in the US.
  2. I’m naive and have been exposed to corruption, but have not been observant enough to note it.
  3. There is a class of people (inner city, immigrants, blacks, poor, very wealthy, lobbyists, government workers) I’m out of touch with that deals with much more corruption than I or my circle of acquaintances do.
  4. The interviewees were not randomly selected, or just happened to largely come from one or more of the above “corruption vulnerable” classes (if there is such a thing).
  5. The answers were given by ‘normal’ people who were simply politically motivated (as I described earlier) to generally cast a negative light on government.

Option 5 seems the most likely to me. If the survey had any integrity at all it’s crazy to think 7% of all Americans actually pay bribes to public officials.

I know or am related to politicians, multi-millionaires, real estate professionals, the honest to God Mafia, felons, general fuckups and also some sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies and dickheads.

Only the politicians ever talked about bribes and that was told in retrospect about the good old days in the 50’s and 60’s if not much earlier. I only know of one reputable case personally in my whole life and it was as stereotypical as you can get. My ex-FIL who looks and acts like the Godfather was told that he had to attend a fundraiser in Lynn, MA and make a specific large donation in order to get a permit for the building he just bought. He paid it but was still taken aback and did not expect it or appreciate it.

The actual Mafia renovated my kitchen about 10 years ago and even they didn’t require any bribes or give any out. They were just doing their straight day job.

Bribes exist in a few positions with specific circumstances but they are really risky and generally not worth it even in the private sector. All of the large companies I have worked for put accepting bribes or even simple gifts above about $25 at the same level of offense as smoking crack at your desk during business hours. It is instant termination, no questions asked.

Bribery does exist but it isn’t 7% for the U.S. when it comes to to public positions. Prison guards seem to get busted for it a lot as do politicians in a few places but all of those offenses combined only make up a fraction of a percent of the population even when you consider both sides.

“…They all adore him!” LOL, just LOL!

Regarding the rest, your stories seem totally plausible, and I fully agree that a fraction of 1% is about as high as it could be in reality.