Florida State University (United States)


How do authoritarian governments use mass media to shape public opinion during times of crisis? We propose to study agenda-setting and propaganda in Russia’s most-watched news source, the state-owned Channel 1 television station, to investigate how information about a deadly health crisis—the Covid-19 pandemic—is covered by state media. This project uses text analysis and machine learning to distinguish between different strategies that could be used to shape public opinion about the nature of the crisis and the appropriateness of the government’s response to it. To better understand how crisis conditions affect the regime’s choice of information manipulation strategies, we compare Channel 1’s coverage of Covid-19 to its coverage of other recent crises that differ on key dimensions: the 2008–9 global economic recession (where crisis severity and recovery were more readily observed by individuals) and the 2011–12 anti-regime protests (a homegrown domestic crisis not shared by other countries).

Principal Investigators

Quintin Beazer

Associate Professor, Political Science, Florida State University

Quintin H. Beazer is an associate professor of political science at Florida State University. He studies comparative politics and political economy, with specialization in the politics of Russia and the post-communist countries. His recent research projects explore investor responses to political risks, incentives within authoritarian institutions, and information control by state-owned media.

Holger Kern

Associate Professor, Florida State University

Holger L. Kern is associate professor of political science at Florida State University. His main research areas are comparative politics and quantitative methodology. He studies the politics of authoritarian regimes with a focus on transitions to and from democracy, populism, mass media, public opinion, and information control.