Opium for the Masses: How Foreign Media Can Stabilize Authoritarian Regimes

Posted: 9 Oct 2009

See all articles by Holger L. Kern

Holger L. Kern

Florida State University - Department of Political Science

Jens Hainmueller

Stanford University - Department of Political Science; Stanford Graduate School of Business; Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

Date Written: Autumn 2009

Abstract

In this case study of the impact of West German television on public support for the East German communist regime, we evaluate the conventional wisdom in the democratization literature that foreign mass media undermine authoritarian rule. We exploit formerly classified survey data and a natural experiment to identify the effect of foreign media exposure using instrumental variable estimators. Contrary to conventional wisdom, East Germans exposed to West German television were more satisfied with life in East Germany and more supportive of the East German regime. To explain this surprising finding, we show that East Germans used West German television primarily as a source of entertainment. Behavioral data on regional patterns in exit visa applications and archival evidence on the reaction of the East German regime to the availability of West German television corroborate this result.

Suggested Citation

Kern, Holger L. and Hainmueller, Jens, Opium for the Masses: How Foreign Media Can Stabilize Authoritarian Regimes (Autumn 2009). Political Analysis, Vol. 17, Issue 4, pp. 377-399, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1485952 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/pan/mpp017

Holger L. Kern (Contact Author)

Florida State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Tallahassee, FL 30306
United States

Jens Hainmueller

Stanford University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.stanford.edu/~jhain/

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

30 Alta Road
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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