Attention to Biased Media and Perceptions of Inequality
Posted: 14 Jan 2020 Last revised: 13 Apr 2020
Date Written: January 1, 2020
Can biased media in authoritarian systems effectively reshape citizens' beliefs if they have an option of not paying attention to it? We address this question by developing a formal model where citizens can choose whether to consume media while perceiving the existence of information manipulation. We apply this model to understand how media consumption shapes citizens' perceived income inequality. In equilibrium, media exposure is negatively correlated with perceived inequality only when media bias is moderate. This negative correlation can be decomposed into the manipulation effect and the self-selection effect. The manipulation effect captures the change of perception due to random media exposure, and the self-selection effect captures the fact that individuals with lower perceived inequality are more likely to consume media. Furthermore, the impact of media exposure is weaker among more informed individuals. Using a nationwide survey from China, we find empirical evidence consistent with the theoretical predictions.
Keywords: Media Bias, Perception of Economic Inequality, Media Exposure
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