Can Citizens Discern? Information Credibility, Political Sophistication, and the Punishment of Corruption in Brazil
36 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2015
Date Written: April 30, 2015
Citizens in a democracy can only hold elected officials accountable if they are able to correctly assess politician performance. Although there is ample evidence that individuals learn and take political cues from favored sources, these sources may have incentives to dissemble. When will citizens discern between more and less credible sources of political information? We examine citizen responsiveness to information sources of variable credibility in Brazil, a setting that poses a number of challenges to citizen discernment. Using data from an original survey experiment on political corruption, we show that all respondents except for the very least educated are able to discern between sources of information with differing credibility. We also show that the ability to discern more from less credible information is increasing in cognitive and political sophistication. Our findings provide the first direct empirical evidence that citizens in a middle-income democracy are sensitive to information credibility.
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