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Working paper

Social Trust and Media Consumption in Democratic and Non-Democratic Societies

Generalized trust is an information- and risk-based resource enabling communication in modern society. Mass media channels can reduce or increase generalized trust, but their effects are dependent on the social context. The purpose of this paper is to examine how different types of media consumption are related to generalized social trust under democratic and nondemocratic regimes. In modern societies generalized trust and mass media serve as mechanisms to overcome information-based uncertainty. We propose and investigate hypotheses on how the relation between news media consumption and social trust differs in democratic and nondemocratic societies. Using multilevel regression modelling on the nationally representative World Values Survey data from more than 75,000 people in 53 countries across the world (2011-2014) and international democracy indices, we look into the interactive effects of regular use of the Internet and television news and generalized trust in democratic and nondemocratic countries. The results show that, irrelevant of the political regime, regular news consumption from television is associated with lower trust to strangers. However, using Internet news in nondemocratic countries is linked with an additional decrease in trust to strangers. We discuss how these findings run against the argument of the bridging effect of the Internet in nondemocratic countries and support the mean-world hypothesis irrelevant of the political regime.