Why Do Citizens Support Media Censorship? Evidence from Three Waves of the Asian Barometer Surveys

Dr. Wen-Chin Wu

The world is experiencing democratic recession, and media freedom is also declining in the world as many governments suppress the media. According to the Economist, the global average of press freedom in 2021 hits the lowest level since 1984. While many studies have investigated why media freedom is higher in some countries than in others, few studies examine why ordinary citizens support government censorship. Even fewer studies explore cross-national variations of individual support for censorship. In this article, we aim to fill in both gaps. We hypothesize that popular support for media censorship is determined by citizens’ democratic attitudes, trust in the government and the media, and the intensity of media usage. Specifically, citizens would oppose media censorship if they prefer checks and balances on the government. Yet, they would support media censorship if they place higher trust in their governments and believe that their government do not hold withhold important information from the public. In addition, they would be less supportive for media censorship if they have higher trust in media outlets and reliance on social media to get political information. We test these hypotheses by investigating determinants of popular support for media censorship with three waves of the Asian Barometer Surveys conducted in 15 Asian countries during 2010 and 2021.