Persuasion Through Propaganda: Experimental Evidence from Russia

Persuasion Through Propaganda: Experimental Evidence from Russia

- 2 mins

Abstract of the project co-authored with Arturas Rozenas and Denis Stukal.

When is propaganda persuasive and whose beliefs can it affect the most and the least? To address this question, we propose a simple model of belief-updating in which citizens are uncertain about the competence of their government, but they are also uncertain about the bias of the media source, which tells them that the government is competent. Upon observing propaganda messages, citizens who are a priori skeptical about the honesty of the media source become even more convinced that the media is biased and do not update their beliefs about the competence of the government. In contrast, citizens who are a priori skeptical about the government’s competence but are not skeptical about the media are most liable to update their beliefs in favor of the government. As a result, propaganda not only fails to persuade those who are a priori skeptical about the honesty of the state media, but it also makes them less likely to be persuaded in the future. The model allows us to identify the types of citizens who are most and least susceptible to being persuaded by propaganda, and allows us to draw structured predictions about the effects of propaganda on the citizens’ beliefs about both the content of the messages as well as the biasedness of the media. We present the experimental design and pre-analysis plan for testing these propositions with a survey experiment in Russia.

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