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Media and the Quality of Democracy: the different impacts of media on trust and regime support

Open Panel

Abstract

In Brazil, public support for democracy presents a paradox. While adherence to democracy as an ideal reaches 2/3 of citizens - having increased since 1989 when it reached about half - trust in institutions, evaluation of the main actors and their satisfaction with the functioning of democratic rule have inverse levels. On the other hand, support for the political community – i.e. pride in nation - also boasts high rates. The media is a fundamental institution to be considered for the quality of democracy. Different messages contained in the various media have the potential to foster or undermine political attitudes toward the democratic regime. This means that the media can be considered important intermediaries between the institutional dimension and citizens’ attitudes and beliefs. International literature presents contradictory views on this role played by the media. This paper explores how the media matter for a culture of political support necessary for democratic consolidation, in the Brazilian case. Using data from the national surveys “Brazilian Electoral Study” (2002) and “Citizens’ Distrust in Democratic Institutions” (2006), we explore how media exposure is relevant for Brazilian citizens’ orientations towards their political system. We argue that there are two sets of multidimensionality in play. Different means and messages play distinct roles in the different dimensions of public support for democracy, such as trust in institutions and adherence to democratic ideals.