Accepted paper:

Controlling the flow of information: social media effects on citizen attitudes about Democracy in latin America


Jason Gainous (University of Louisville)
Tricia Gray (University of Louisville)
Kevin Wagner (Florida Atlantic University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the effects of social media on citizen attitudes about democracy in Latin America.

Paper long abstract:

We plan to use survey data from Latino Barometer to explore the implications of Internet use, and social media use in particular, on political opinion in Latin America, arguing that the effects are largely contingent on the level of government filtering of the Internet. We will frame this argument in the equalization/normalization literature where these two camps have argued, respectively, that the Internet is either going to serve as a democratizing force or its influence is simply going to be harnessed by the existing power structure limiting its capacity to serve as a democratizing force. Our preliminary results suggest there is a relationship between both Internet use generally and social media use in particular and citizens' attitudes about the condition of democracy in their respective country. Those who use the medium more frequently are more likely to be exposed to dissident information and as a result tend to feel less favorable about the conditions in their country. We suspect that this effect is smaller in those countries with higher filtering. To test this proposition we will estimate separate models for those countries with high filtering versus those with low filtering using Freedom House data to measure the level of filtering.

panel P28
Latin American digital culture