Towards an African spring? Exploring the relationship between social media and political trust in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Social media platforms are rapidly gaining ground in sub-Saharan Africa. Cheaper smartphones contribute to an increasing use of social media among African citizens. However, African governments strategically use social media in order to reach their own goals. This thesis contributes to the existing literature on the impact of social media in sub-Saharan Africa by exploring the relationship between social media and political trust. A multilevel linear regression model is used on almost 50.000 individuals, living in 384 regions in 32 different countries. Political trust is created by calculating the average level of trust in the parliament, electoral commission and local government for each respondent. We find evidence for a negative relationship between obtaining news from social media and political trust. However, the relationship depends on contextual factors. At the household level we observe that living in an urban area and obtaining news from the radio weakens the relationship, whereas the relationship is stronger in regions in which the education level is lower. We also observe that high levels of corruption and low levels of media freedom contribute to a stronger negative relationship between social media and political trust. We do not find evidence for a causal relationship.
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