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Media Freedom, Political Knowledge, and Participation

  • Peter T. Leeson

This paper examines the relationship between media freedom from government control and citizens' political knowledge, political participation, and voter turnout. To explore these connections, I first examine media freedom and citizens' political knowledge in thirteen central and eastern European countries with data from Freedom House's Freedom of the Press report and the European Commission's Candidate Countries Eurobarometer survey. Next, I consider media freedom and citizens' political participation in 60 countries using data from the World Values Survey. Finally, I investigate media freedom and voter turnout in these same 60 or so countries with data from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. I find that where government owns a larger share of media outlets and infrastructure, regulates the media industry more, and does more to control the content of news, citizens are more politically ignorant and apathetic. Where the media is less regulated and there is greater private ownership in the media industry, citizens are more politically knowledgeable and active. These results are robust to sample, specification, and alternative measures of media freedom.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.22.2.155
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 22 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 155-169

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:22:y:2008:i:2:p:155-169
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.22.2.155
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  1. Besley, Timothy J. & Prat, Andrea, 2002. "Handcuffs for the Grabbing Hand? Media Capture and Government Accountability," CEPR Discussion Papers 3132, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Robert J. Barro & Jong-Wha Lee, 2000. "International Data on Educational Attainment Updates and Implications," NBER Working Papers 7911, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Sendhil Mullainathan & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "Media Bias," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1981, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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  5. Djankov, Simeon & McLeish, Caralee & Nenova, Tatiana & Shleifer, Andrei, 2001. "Who owns the media?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2620, The World Bank.
  6. Alexander Dyck & Natalya Volchkova & Luigi Zingales, 2006. "The Corporate Governance Role of the Media: Evidence from Russia," NBER Working Papers 12525, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse Shapiro, 2005. "Media Bias and Reputation," NBER Working Papers 11664, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. DellaVigna, Stefano & Kaplan, Ethan, 2006. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," Seminar Papers 748, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  9. Sendhil Mullainathan & Andrei Shleifer, 2005. "The Market for News," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1031-1053, September.
  10. Brunetti, Aymo & Weder, Beatrice, 2003. "A free press is bad news for corruption," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(7-8), pages 1801-1824, August.
  11. Christopher J. Coyne & Peter T. Leeson, 2004. "Read All About It! Understanding the Role of Media in Economic Development," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(1), pages 21-44, 02.
  12. Prat, Andrea & Strömberg, David, 2005. "Commercial Television and Voter Information," CEPR Discussion Papers 4989, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Andrei Shleifer & Daniel Treisman, 2005. "A Normal Country: Russia After Communism," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 151-174, Winter.
  14. David Strömberg, 2004. "Radio's Impact on Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 189-221, February.
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