Social Media and Xenophobia: Evidence from Russia
Last registered on September 10, 2018

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Social Media and Xenophobia: Evidence from Russia
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0003066
Initial registration date
September 08, 2018
Last updated
September 10, 2018 1:58 AM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
University of Chicago
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Universitat Pompeu Fabra, New Economic School
PI Affiliation
New Economic School, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
PI Affiliation
Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2017-05-20
End date
2019-05-01
Secondary IDs
N/A
Abstract
In recent years, a large increase in expression of hate has been documented (for numbers on the US, see Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, 2017). Moreover, in recent elections, nationalistic platforms have also received considerable support (e.g., Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen and Brexit). In this project, we plan to analyze the causal effect of access to social media on animosity toward specific groups of population (e.g., ethnic groups) and hate crime in Russia.

Social media reduces the cost of coordination, which might be particularly relevant for illegal/stigmatized activities, such as hate crime. Social media makes it easier to find like-minded people and might reduce the cost of asking or exposing one’s self. Social media might also influence or reinforce people’s opinions: tolerant individuals might be more exposed to intolerant views, while intolerant individuals might end up in an “echo chamber”.

Exploiting a natural experiment that generated plausibly exogenous variation in social media access at the city level in Russia, we analyze whether in cities with a high baseline level of private support for nationalistic ideas, access to social media increases hate crimes and the prevalence of hostile attitudes against ethnic minorities. We have already found a positive impact of social media access on the incidence of hate crimes against ethnic minorities.

The survey is implemented as a part of this project, with the aim of understanding better the channels through which social media affects hostile attitudes against ethnic minorities. In particular, we plan to implement a survey experiment in several cities in Russia to measure social stigma associated with xenophobic attitudes by asking survey participants about their attitudes toward people of other ethnicity and migrants both directly and indirectly through a list experiment (which allows eliciting the same attitudes on average without revealing preferences of individual respondents). The difference between the share of respondents that have negative attitudes toward people of other ethnicity and migrants as measured through the list experiment (i.e. in an indirect way) and those that admit such attitudes in response to direct questions will be used as a measure of social stigma, associated with such attitudes (under the assumption that social stigma makes people less likely to reveal such attitudes even in the context of anonymous survey. This measure will be used in a city-level analysis of the effect of social media on both this measure of social stigma and their “implicit” attitudes toward people of other ethnicity and migrants revealed indirectly through the list experiment.

The project will also consider the heterogeneity of the main effect by gender. An analysis of over 100 VK communities associated with hate attitudes indicates that about 3/4 of their members are male, so we expect to observe stronger effects for male respondents.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Bursztyn, Leonardo et al. 2018. "Social Media and Xenophobia: Evidence from Russia." AEA RCT Registry. September 10. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.3066-1.0.
Former Citation
Bursztyn, Leonardo et al. 2018. "Social Media and Xenophobia: Evidence from Russia." AEA RCT Registry. September 10. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3066/history/34003.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
List experiment to reveal social stigma associated with xenophobic attitudes, and also a measure of xenophobic attitudes with a higher degree of plausible deniability.
Intervention Start Date
2018-09-01
Intervention End Date
2018-12-01
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
- City-level xenophobic attitudes;
- City-level social stigma associated with xenophobic attitudes.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Implicit xenophobic attitudes – the share of respondents that have negative attitudes toward people of other ethnicity and migrants as measured through the list experiment (i.e. in an indirect way).

Self-reported xenophobic attitudes – the share of respondents who admit such attitudes in response to direct questions.

City-level social stigma associated with xenophobic attitudes – the difference between these two measures.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
- City-level VK penetration;
- Pre-existing nationalism.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
City-level VK penetration. – number of VK users who indicate specific city in our sample as their home town. In the city-level analysis we will follow the approach of Enikolopov, Makarin, Petrova (2018) and use the information on the distribution of the hometowns of students graduating from a specific Russian university as a source of quasi-exogenous variation in the penetration of VK across cities.

Pre-existing nationalism. To measure the level of nationalism at the city-level before the creation of social media we will use the level of support for the nationalist party “Motherland” (Rodina) party in the 2003 parliamentary elections.
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
In the list experiment framework we will randomize whether a statement about xenophobic attitudes is included or not in the list of statements for which respondents asked to indicate the number of statements with which they agree. Respondents who end up in the treatment group in which this question is not included in the list of statements are subsequently asked this questions directly.
Experimental Design Details
In the list experiment framework we will randomize whether a statement about xenophobic attitudes is included or not in the list of statements for which respondents asked to indicate the number of statements with which they agree. Respondents who end up in the treatment group in which this question is not included in the list of statements are subsequently asked this questions directly.
Randomization Method
Randomization done by a computer of the survey firm.
Randomization Unit
Individual.
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
100 cities.
Sample size: planned number of observations
5,000. Importantly, we have run a pilot of 1,000 observations from 20 cities, in May 2018. The goal was to test the instruments and logistical implementation. The instrument used is nearly identical to the one to be used in the next data collection. To gain power, we will pool the observations from both samples. As a robustness check, we will also show the results dropping the observations from the pilot.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
2500/2500
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
The Institutional Commission for Ethical Review of Projects (CIREP) of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra
IRB Approval Date
2018-07-20
IRB Approval Number
0096
IRB Name
Social & Behavioral Sciences Institutional Review Board at the University of Chicago
IRB Approval Date
2018-07-19
IRB Approval Number
IRB18-0858
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers