Rosa M. Navarrete, Christina Eder
Are social media and misinformation a threat to democracy?

28. Wissenschaftlicher Kongress der Deutschen Vereinigung für Politikwissenschaft, (virtual conference), 14. bis 16. September 2021

Social media platforms have become an important source of information, as well as misinformation. There has been an open debate on whether and how this combination can constitute a threat to democracy, contribute to the success of radical parties, and even amplify authoritarian and populist attitudes. While scholars of electoral behavior have been paying attention to how misinformation and the use of social media for political information are associated with the vote for radical and populist parties for more than a decade, research on how diffuse and specific support for democracy are affected, also by the level of misinformation, is rather scarce. In this paper, we assess the extent to which democratic legitimacy and satisfaction with democracy are affected by the use of social media as a source of political information and by how misinformed a citizen is. The distinction between diffuse and specific support is relevant because the former is stable and is rooted in long-term learning and socialization processes while the latter is more vulnerable to shortterm influences. Employing novel data from an online survey conducted in Germany in late 2020, we expect a differential effect meaning that the way in which citizens get their political information and how misinformed they are should have a greater impact on their assessment of the functioning of democracy than on their evaluation of democracy as the most preferential political regime. All in all, our results provide evidence that contributes to assess whether democracy is threatened by the new news consumption habits.