Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 22 No. 2 (Spring 2008)


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Media Freedom, Political Knowledge, and Participation

Article Citation

Leeson, Peter T. 2008. "Media Freedom, Political Knowledge, and Participation." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 22(2): 155-169.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.22.2.155


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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Leeson, Peter T. (George Mason U)

JEL Classifications

D72: Models of Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
L82: Entertainment; Media


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