DP14022 3G Internet and Confidence in Government

Author(s): Sergei Guriev, Nikita Melnikov, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya
Publication Date: September 2019
Date Revised: November 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 mobile broadband 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 third generation (3G) mobile networks, we show that an increase in mobile broadband internet access reduces government approval. This effect is present only when the internet is not censored and is stronger when traditional media is censored. This effect is reversed in the few countries with the lowest corruption. 3G helps expose actual corruption in government: revelations of the Panama Papers and corruption incidents translate into higher perceptions of corruption in regions covered by 3G networks. The disillusionment of voters in governments had electoral implications: In Europe, the expansion of mobile broadband internet led to a decrease in the vote shares of incumbent parties and an increase in the vote shares of the antiestablishment populist opposition. The vote shares of the nonpopulist opposition were unaffected by the expansion of 3G networks.