Political Behavior

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 401–422 | Cite as

Traditional Versus Internet Media in a Restricted Information Environment: How Trust in the Medium Matters

  • Jason GainousEmail author
  • Jason P. Abbott
  • Kevin M. Wagner
Original Paper


We use original survey data from Malaysia to explore differences in how traditional and digital media shape the attitudes and behavior of citizens. In closed, and even semi-authoritarian, states such as Malaysia, the Internet, including social media, is often the only place for opposition-centered media to thrive. As a result, consumption of Internet media is related to dissident attitudes. We argue that this relationship, though, is mitigated by trust in the medium. Our results suggest: (1) trust in traditional and Internet media determines the frequency with which citizens use each corresponding medium to gather political information, (2) higher trust in traditional media is positively associated with attitudes about democratic conditions in Malaysia; the opposite is true for trust in Internet media, (3) trust in the traditional media is negatively related, and trust in Internet media is positively related to the inclination to protest, (4) the positive relationship between digital media consumption and this attitude is stronger for those who trust Internet media, and diminished among those who trust traditional media.


Internet media Traditional media Social media Media trust Protest Authoritarian governments Critical information flows Malaysia 



We would like to thank Amanzhol Bekmagambetov, Ben Epstein and Michael James Jensen for their comments on earlier versions of this paper.

Supplementary material

11109_2018_9456_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 18 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science, Center for Asian DemocracyUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political Science, Aung San Suu Kyi Endowed Chair, Center for Asian DemocracyUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Political ScienceFlorida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA

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