Maja Adena, Ruben Enikolopov, Maria Petrova, Hans-Joachim Voth, 19 November 2020

In conflicts, adversaries aim for victory by using both direct and indirect forces to break the enemy’s will to resist. During WWII, Allied forces used strategic bombing and radio propaganda to undermine German morale. This column compares German domestic resistance to the Nazi regime, based on treason trial records, with the monthly volume of bombing and the locations of BBC radio transmitters. Where radio reception was better and Allied air forces bombed more heavily, German domestic resistance was markedly more likely, despite the draconian punishments for even the mildest transgressions.

Marcus Painter, Tian Qiu, 11 May 2020

Social distancing is vital to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. Leveraging smartphone geolocation data, this column examines how political beliefs impact the effectiveness of state-level social distancing orders in the US. The findings suggest that Republicans and misaligned Democrats are less likely to adhere to social distancing orders. Bipartisan support for social distancing measures thus appears to be a key factor in how quickly we can mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Nicolas Ajzenman, Tiago Cavalcanti, Daniel Da Mata, 02 May 2020

Regardless of their scientific soundness, COVID-19 recommendations from political leaders such as President Trump are taken seriously by followers. In Brazil, President Bolsonaro has publicly flaunted social distancing measures and downplayed the seriousness of the disease in at least two well-publicised instances. This column analyses the effects of Bolsonaro’s actions and speeches in the month of March on Brazilians’ social-distancing behaviours, using electoral data and geo-localised mobile phone data from 60 million devices. The findings suggest that social distancing behaviour decreased in municipalities with stronger support for Bolsonaro.

Ruben Durante, 20 December 2019

New research demonstrates what we all suspected: for decades, politicians have routinely used busy news days to bury unpopular announcements. Ruben Durante educates Tim Phillips in the politics of distraction.

Milena Djourelova, Ruben Durante, 17 November 2019

It is often suspected that politicians time announcements of controversial policies strategically to avoid public scrutiny. This column reports evidence from a systematic analysis of executive orders issued by US presidents, showing that their timing is consistent with strategic behaviour. Presidents tend to issue executive orders, and specifically ones that are likely to generate negative publicity, in coincidence with other important events that distract the media and the public.

Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 22 October 2019

Ekaterina Zhuravskaya discusses the impact that international media has on military operations.

Ria Ivandic, Tom Kirchmaier, Stephen Machin, 06 September 2019

The attacks on mosques in Oslo and Christchurch have again called attention to the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment that is increasingly becoming normalised in media and on social platforms. This column studies the role the media plays in local increases in Islamophobic hate crime following jihadi terror attacks. Data from Greater Manchester Police reveal a spike in Islamophobic hate crime and incidents following ten international jihadi attacks. Other jihadi attacks that were much less prominent in the UK media, but no less lethal, did not generate the same spikes, suggesting that anti-Muslim hate crime is magnified by media coverage. 

Simon Wren-Lewis, 16 April 2019

Mathieu Couttenier, Sophie Hatte, Mathias Thoenig, Stephanos Vlachos, 02 April 2019

Populists often claim that immigration is a threat to the interests of the majority. This column quantifies the extent to which the media coverage of immigrant crime fuelled populist political support in a Swiss referendum. It finds that disproportionate coverage of immigrant crime increased an anti-minaret vote by 5%.

Simon Anderson, Øystein Foros, Hans Kind, 15 August 2018

Media platforms traditionally delivered the widest possible audience to advertisers. This column argues that the arrival of digital competition in media has created a battle for ‘exclusive eyeballs’ – a niche audience not shared with competitors. While this increases diversity in the media, it also incentivises media outlets to polarise to attract specific groups, and to create echo chambers to retain them.

Simon Wren-Lewis, 20 June 2018

Bei Qin, David Strömberg, Yanhui Wu, 25 May 2018

The Chinese government has invested heavily in surveillance systems that exploit information on social media. This column shows that these systems are very effective, even in their simplest form. From the government’s point of view, social media, although unattractive as a potential outlet for organised social protest, is useful as a method to surveil protests, monitor local officials, and disseminate propaganda.

Stefano Gagliarducci, Massimiliano Onorato, Francesco Sobbrio, Guido Tabellini, 22 April 2018

During WWII the BBC was actively engaged in fostering opposition to the German occupation throughout Europe. This column uses data on variations in radio signal strength during the war to analyse the role played by the BBC’s “Radio Londra” programme in civilian and partisan resistance against the Nazi-fascist regime. The findings suggest that BBC radio played a significant role in coordinating resistance activities against foreign occupation, but only a minor role in mobilising the civilian population against the fascist regime.

Patrick Kennedy, Andrea Prat, 25 November 2017

Real news is an antidote to fake news, but how much political information do we access and where does it come from? Based on an analysis of news consumption in 18 countries, this column shows that low-income, low-education voters use fewer information sources. This pattern is reflected at the aggregate level, with countries with high income inequality also demonstrating high information inequality. News sources that cater to information-poor audiences have greater ‘media power’, and there is no evidence that public service broadcasting reduces information inequality.

Sagit Bar-Gill, Neil Gandal, 10 April 2017

Online echo chambers – in which people engage only with others that share, and media that reflect, their opinions and biases – have become an area of concern in the wake of last year’s startling political upsets. This column investigates how users navigate and explore an online content space. Highly social users and younger users are most likely to get caught in echo chambers, while opinion leaders are less likely to get caught. Reducing the visibility of content popularity information, such as ‘like’ and ‘view’ counts, may help mitigate echo chamber effects. 

Charles Angelucci, Julia Cagé, 26 August 2016

Advertisers are deserting newspapers. Using the impact of television advertising on print media in 1968, this column argues that a reduction in advertising revenues will reduce the quality of newspapers. Ultimately, this may result in a less well-informed public.

Ruben Durante, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 15 June 2016

Governments involved in conflict are often concerned with how their actions are perceived by the international community. This column uses evidence on the Israel-Palestine conflict and US news reporting between 2000 and 2011 to show how media considerations can impact military strategy. Israeli attacks are more likely to be carried out one day before the US news is expected to be dominated by important political or sport events. There is no evidence of a similar pattern to Palestinian attacks. The findings suggest that strategic behaviour could undermine the effectiveness of the mass media as a watchdog, and thus reduce citizens’ ability to keep public officials accountable. 

Brian Knight, Ana Tribin, 06 May 2016

The media plays a significant role in politics, but households can choose not to consume political propaganda delivered through the media. This column uses evidence from Venezuela to show that households that support opposition parties are more inclined to switch away from, or tune out of, government propaganda delivered via the television. Higher-income households, which tend to have access to alternative channels via cable, are also less likely to consume propaganda. These findings have significant implications for politically polarised societies.

Scott Baker, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, 15 December 2015

The recent influx of refugees to Europe has stoked security fears and created anxiety about the social and economic consequences. This column provides new quantitative indicators for the intensity of migration-related fears and policy uncertainty, based on newspaper articles. The indices are presented for the US, UK, France, and Germany, and extend back to 1995. They show that recent levels of concern and uncertainty in European countries about migration are unprecedented. 

Yana Jin, Mu Quan, Chiara Ravetti, Zhang Shiqiu, Timothy Swanson, 02 December 2015

Many cities in China have notoriously high levels of air pollution. Given its tight control over the media, the Chinese government has a high degree of control over public information about air quality. This column explores the government’s incentive to downplay the seriousness of pollution spikes. Households that rely exclusively on public media are found to engage in less self-protective behaviours. This could lead to substantial public health costs in the long run that might otherwise have been avoided.

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