Bias and Trust in Authoritarian Media
39 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2016
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
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