Does Internet Use Affect Netizens’ Trust in Government? Empirical Evidence from China

Abstract

Although the Internet has had a profound influence on China’s economy and society, the empirical research pertaining to political consequences of the Internet is highly sparse. This paper investigates the potential relationship between Internet use and trust in government of Chinese netizens. We find robust evidence of a significant positive effect of Internet use on trust in government of netizens in China. The beneficial impact of Internet use on trust in government is found to be heterogeneous across genders and age groups. We also find that the source of information plays a role in explaining Chinese netizens’ attitudes towards their governments. In addition, we find that the key mechanisms through which Internet use affects trust in government are the changes in netizens’ appraisal of government performance, deference to government authority and internal efficacy.

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Funding

Funding was provided by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 71603052) and Humanity and Social Science Youth Foundation of Ministry of Education (Grant No. 16YJCZH065).

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Correspondence to Haiyang Lu.

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Lu, H., Tong, P. & Zhu, R. Does Internet Use Affect Netizens’ Trust in Government? Empirical Evidence from China. Soc Indic Res 149, 167–185 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-019-02247-0

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Keywords

  • Internet use
  • Political trust
  • Mechanism
  • China
  • Netizens