Identifying the Effect of Political Rumor Diffusion Using Variations in Survey Timing

108 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2018 Last revised: 3 Aug 2018

See all articles by Jin Woo Kim

Jin Woo Kim

Dartmouth College, Program in Quantitative Social Science

Eunji Kim

University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: July 4, 2018

Abstract

Despite growing concerns about the diffusion of political rumors, researchers often lack the means to estimate their effects. Field experiments seem infeasible due to ethical issues. Survey experiments typically invoke strong assumptions about homogeneous treatment effects across subjects and settings. We argue that exploiting temporal overlap between rumor circulations and survey interviews can be a useful alternative. We focus on an accidental and sudden spread of “Obama-is-a-Muslim” myths in September 2008. Using a difference-in-difference strategy that compares over-time belief changes of those interviewed for the September wave of the 2008–2009 American National Election Studies surveys before the rumor circulation and afterwards, we find that this event increased people’s belief that Barak Obama is a Muslim by 4 to 8 percentage points. To rule out various alternative explanations, we show that the treatment and control groups changed in parallel across waves in terms of an extensive set of placebo variables including political knowledge, other political misperception, and general attitudes toward Obama.

Keywords: Online rumor, media effect, difference-in-difference

Suggested Citation

Kim, Jin Woo and Kim, Eunji, Identifying the Effect of Political Rumor Diffusion Using Variations in Survey Timing (July 4, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3133334 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3133334

Jin Woo Kim (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College, Program in Quantitative Social Science ( email )

Department of Sociology
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Eunji Kim

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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