Online Social Media and Political Awareness in Authoritarian Regimes

40 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2012 Last revised: 13 Jul 2014

Ora John Reuter

University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee - Department of Political Science; National Research University Higher School of Economics

David Szakonyi

George Washington University

Date Written: April 18, 2013

Abstract

Does online social media undermine authoritarianism? We examine the conditions under which online social networks can increase public awareness of electoral fraud in non-democracies. We argue that a given online social network will only increase political awareness if it is first politicized by elites. Using survey data from the 2011 Russian parliamentary elections, we show that usage of Twitter and Facebook, which were politicized by opposition elites, significantly increased respondents' perceptions of electoral fraud, while usage of Russia's domestic social networking platforms, Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, which were not politicized by opposition activists, had no effect on perceptions of fraud. Our study elucidates the causes of post-election protest by uncovering a mechanism through which knowledge of electoral fraud can become widespread.

Keywords: authoritarianism, internet, social media, Russia, elections

Suggested Citation

Reuter, Ora John and Szakonyi, David, Online Social Media and Political Awareness in Authoritarian Regimes (April 18, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2148690 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2148690

Ora John Reuter (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee - Department of Political Science ( email )

PO Box 413
Milwaukee, WI 53211
United States

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017
Russia

David Szakonyi

George Washington University ( email )

2121 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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