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Opium for the Masses: How Foreign Free Media Can Stabilize Authoritarian Regimes

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  • Kern, Holger
  • Hainmueller, Jens

Abstract

A common claim in the democratization literature is that foreign free media undermine authoritarian rule. No reliable micro-level evidence on this topic exists, however, since independent survey research is rarely possible in authoritarian regimes and self-selection into media consumption complicates causal inferences. In this case study of the impact of West German television on political attitudes in communist East Germany, we address these problems by making use of previously secret survey data and a natural experiment. While most East Germans were able to tune in to West German broadcasts, some of them were cut off from West German television due to East Germany's topography. We exploit this plausibly exogenous variation to estimate the impact of West German television on East Germans' political attitudes using instrumental variable estimators. Contrary to conventional wisdom, East Germans who watched West German television were more satisfied with life in East Germany and the communist regime. To explain this surprising finding, we demonstrate that West German television's role in transmitting political information not available in the state-controlled communist media was insignificant and that television primarily served as a means of entertainment for East Germans. Archival material on the reaction of the East German regime to the availability of West German television corroborates our argument.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 2702.

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Date of creation: Aug 2007
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:2702

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Keywords: instrumental variables; causal inference; local average response function; media effects; East Germany; democratization;

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  1. James Robins & Andrea Rotnitzky, 2004. "Estimation of treatment effects in randomised trials with non-compliance and a dichotomous outcome using structural mean models," Biometrika, Biometrika Trust, vol. 91(4), pages 763-783, December.
  2. Joshua Angrist & Alan Krueger, 2001. "Instrumental Variables and the Search for Identification: From Supply and Demand to Natural Experiments," Working Papers 834, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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  4. Richard Blundell & James Powell, 2001. "Endogeneity in nonparametric and semiparametric regression models," CeMMAP working papers CWP09/01, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  5. DellaVigna, Stefano & Kaplan, Ethan, 2006. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," Seminar Papers 748, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  6. Charles F. Manski & John V. Pepper, 2000. "Monotone Instrumental Variables, with an Application to the Returns to Schooling," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(4), pages 997-1012, July.
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  9. James J. Heckman & Edward J. Vytlacil, 2000. "Local Instrumental Variables," NBER Technical Working Papers 0252, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Walter Hyll & Lutz Schneider, 2012. "The Causal Effect of Watching TV on Material Aspirations: Evidence from the “Valley of the Innocent”," IWH Discussion Papers 8, Halle Institute for Economic Research.
  2. Stefano DellaVigna & Ruben Enikolopov & Vera Mironova & Maria Petrova & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2011. "Cross-border media and nationalism: Evidence from Serbian radio in Croatia," NBER Working Papers 16989, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Tanja Hennighausen, 2013. "Exposure to Television and Individual Beliefs: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 535, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  4. Bruno Frey, 2011. "Tullock challenges: happiness, revolutions, and democracy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 148(3), pages 269-281, September.
  5. Prat, Andrea & Strömberg, David, 2011. "The Political Economy of Mass Media," CEPR Discussion Papers 8246, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Bursztyn, Leonardo & Cantoni, Davide, 2012. "A Tear in the Iron Curtain: The Impact of Western Television on Consumption Behavior," CEPR Discussion Papers 9101, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Ruben Enikolopov & Maria Petrova & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2009. "Media and Political Persuasion: Evidence from Russia," Working Papers w0113, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
  8. Alexander Libman, 2012. "Learning to Be Different: Quantitative Research in Economics and Political Science," Rationality, Markets and Morals, Frankfurt School Verlag, Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, vol. 3(62), December.

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