How biased media generate support for the ruling authorities: Causal mediation analysis of evidence from Russia
If a medium has a monopoly in covering political news and daily distorts the news in favor of the ruling autocrat, how large will the persuasion effect be? Through which channels will such persuasion operate most? Working with a representative sample of the Russian population, I use a causal mediation analysis to figure out whether (1) frequency of exposure and/or (2) reliance on biased reporting mediate the link between how people voted for incumbent elites and how they evaluate these elites in the present. Perceiving explicitly biased information as credible transmits a large and robust effect from voting to evaluation, while frequent exposure to this information produces an insignificant mediating effect. Another important finding is that the effect of perceived news credibility overrides the effect of electoral support: accepting state propaganda as credible information converts people into regime supporters regardless of their previous voting.