3G Internet and Confidence in Government

How does mobile broadband internet affect approval of government? Using Gallup World Poll surveys of 840,537 individuals from 2,232 subnational regions in 116 countries from 2008 to 2017 and the global expansion of 3G mobile networks, we show that, on average, an increase in mobile broadband internet access reduces government approval. This effect is present only when the internet is not censored, and it is stronger when the traditional media are censored. 3G helps expose actual corruption in government: revelations of the Panama Papers and other corruption incidents translate into higher perceptions of corruption in regions covered by 3G networks. Voter disillusionment had electoral implications: In Europe, 3G expansion led to lower vote shares for incumbent parties and higher vote shares for the antiestablishment populist opposition. Vote shares for nonpopulist opposition parties were unaffected by 3G expansion. JEL codes: D72, D73, L86, P16.
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