DP14022 3G Internet and Confidence in Government

Author(s): Sergei Guriev, Nikita Melnikov, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya
Publication Date: September 2019
Date Revised: March 2020
Keyword(s): 3G, Corruption, Government approval, internet, Mobile, populism
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Development Economics, Macroeconomics and Growth
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14022

How does the internet affect government approval? Using surveys of 840,537 individuals from 2,232 subnational regions in 116 countries in 2008-2017 from the Gallup World Poll and the global expansion of 3G networks, we show that an increase in broadband mobile internet access reduces government approval. This effect is present only when the internet is not censored and is stronger when traditional media is censored. 3G internet helps expose actual corruption in government: corruption incidents and revelations of the Panama Papers translated into higher perceptions of corruption in regions covered by 3G networks. The disillusionment of voters with governments had electoral implications: In Europe, the expansion of mobile internet led to a decrease in vote shares of incumbent parties and an increase in vote shares of antiestablishment populist opposition, but not of nonpopulist opposition, whose political suppose was unaffected by the expansion of 3G networks.