Censorship and the Impact of Repression on Dissent

Publication Year


Journal Article
What is the impact of repression on opposition to authoritarian rule? Studies of repression and dissent have yielded contradictory results. Some research suggests that repression reduces popular resistance while others show that it creates backlash and more dissent. In this article, we present an informational theory of repression to account for such divergent findings. We argue that the impact of repression hinges on the degree of censorship. Where alternative media is present, violence is more likely to increase support for opposition. By contrast, where alternative sources of information are limited, repression may reduce support for opposition and actually increase support for incumbents. We test and confirm these expectations with an original dataset that combines the results of a panel survey that spanned the authoritarian repression of electoral protests in Moldova in 2009 and geocoded data on the subnational variation in repression and alternative information availability. The hypothesized interaction between repression and censorship is corroborated in cross-national analysis of repression, censorship, and government support (2005–16).
American Journal of Political Science