Bias and Trust in Authoritarian Media

39 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2016

See all articles by Rory Truex

Rory Truex

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: June 30, 2016


How do citizens living under authoritarian rule perceive state-controlled news? Building on existing research on media bias in the U.S., this paper presents findings from a survey experiment that exposes Chinese citizens to different news stories, randomly assigning the putative source as well as the content itself. The core result is that respondents are aware of pro-regime biases in official mouthpieces but trust these outlets more anyway. Open-ended questions reveal two likely mechanisms. Citizens either a.) genuinely support the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and want pro-government news media or b.) are better able to "back out the biases" from the reliably slanted official papers. Existing models of media politics must be amended to account for the dominance of official papers in authoritarian settings.

Keywords: Authoritarian, media bias, survey experiment, hostile media phenomenon, propaganda, selective exposure, China

Suggested Citation

Truex, Rory, Bias and Trust in Authoritarian Media (June 30, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Rory Truex (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States

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