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Working paper

A Provocative Event, Media, and Religious Choice: The Pussy Riot Case as a Natural Experiment

This paper uses the famous events related to Pussy Riot as a natural experiment to examine the effect of alternative media on church membership. A differences-in-differences strategy is used to explore the effect in question. The hypothesis is that, given a lack of religious background on the majority of the population and strong temporal interest in religious issues promoted by some provocative event, mass media can substantially affect religious choice. To check if this is the case, we compare the dynamics of religious choice of those exposed to alternative media reports on church topics and the rest of the people. As a proxy of familiarity with an alternative view, we use a dummy variable for using Internet. Our main result is that, during the experiment run over the year 2012, the growth of self-reported Orthodox and strict Orthodox believers was significantly lower in the treatment group than in the control group. Exposure to alternative media coverage turned out to heavily affect religious choice.