Public access to accurate and reliable information is fundamental to democracy and democratic decision-making. In emerging democracies, during political crises or controversial elections, reliable information is often difficult to obtain. In authoritarian regimes, citizens' perceptions of information reliability are tightly linked to trust in government, and both are typically low. Open government policies help build trust that is essential during protests or contentious elections. Uses and gratifications (U&G) theory states that people use diverse media to try to satisfy their need for reliable information. Gratifying this need is tied to the larger concept of political information efficacy (PIE), i.e., the belief a person holds about him/herself as being politically informed and competent to participate in political thought and action. We investigated these inter-related concepts by administering a survey to an opportunity sample of young adults at a public state university in Mexico. We find that respondents perceived that information from face-to-face and telephone communication with members of their social network, as well as online sources were the most reliable. Information from offline sources, such as TV and newspapers, especially pro-government sources, were the least reliable. Further, the information factors of availability, reliability, influence and sharing had positive relationships with PIE. These results suggest that in conditions of uncertain political information, social networks and online information sources are essential to political information efficacy and democratic political participation.
- Date of publication:
- July 1, 2016
- Government Information Quarterly
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