Ken Shotts

Stanford University 


If you plan to attend any of our events and would like to be added to our email list, please RSVP to

Propaganda, Alternative Media, and Accountability in Fragile Democracies
Coauthored with Anqi Li and Davin Raiha



We develop a model of electoral accountability with mainstream and alternative media. In addition to regular high- and low-competence types, the incumbent may be an aspiring autocrat who controls the mainstream media and will subvert democracy if retained in office. A truthful alternative media can help voters identify and remove these subversive types while re-electing competent leaders. A malicious alternative media, in contrast, spreads false accusations about the incumbent and demotivates policy effort. If the alternative media is very likely be malicious and hence is unreliable, voters ignore it and use only the mainstream media to hold regular incumbents accountable, leaving aspiring autocrats to win re-election via propaganda that portrays them as effective policymakers. When the alternative media’s reliability is intermediate, voters heed its warnings about subversive incumbents, but the prospect of being falsely accused demotivates effort by regular incumbents and electoral accountability breaks down.


Ken Shotts is the David S. and Ann M. Barlow Professor of Political Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. In his research, he uses game theory to analyze how elections and political institutions influence government policy choices. He has published papers on electoral accountability, presidential leadership, racial redistricting, term limits, political risk, policy entrepreneurship, and media & propaganda in fragile democracies. He also has a forthcoming general-interest book with Neil Malhotra based on their MBA class: “Leading with Values: Strategies for Making Ethical Decisions in Business and Life.”

If you plan to attend this event and/or would like to be added to our email list, please RSVP to


We use both our own and third-party cookies to enhance our services and to offer you the content that most suits your preferences by analysing your browsing habits. Your continued use of the site means that you accept these cookies. You may change your settings and obtain more information here. Accept