Social Provision of Information for Effective Democratic Citizens (2022-2023)

Research in political science, psychology and economics has extensively documented the routine failures of ordinary citizens to fulfill the duties expected of them under democratic theory. These failures arise primarily from a conflict between two prevailing interests as voters navigate participation in the democratic process: a desire to make the best decision and a desire to make an easy decision. 

The path to being an informed citizen has become increasingly complicated due to technological changes that have made it easier for disinformation to flourish. As a result, it becomes more challenging for corrective information to reach citizens, and more challenging for news consumers to identify accurate and reliable news and information sources. This evolution of the media environment has contributed to an increased gravitation towards hyper-partisan news sources, in a process that has been labeled “the spiral of partisanship.” 

This project team explored remedies to the growing information gaps that threaten democracy through a multi-method research approach. Team members conducted literature reviews on local news and information needs and media literacy, analyzed legislation on media literacy across the U.S., created a website containing interactive models estimating the cost of fully funding local journalism, compared digital news subscription costs across the country, conducted a randomized field experiment on information subsidies in Durham and held focus group sessions with community stakeholders to understand Durham-specific needs.

The team found that disparities in information and trust were not addressed by subsidizing access to local news, that people were interested in reading news that directly affected them but were likely to abandon news sources that practiced sensationalism and racially biased coverage and that legislation regarding media literacy is unequal and inconsistent across the country.

Several team members presented at at the Local Journalism Researchers Workshop co-hosted by the UNC Center for Innovation & Sustainability in Local Media and the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy. The team has also submitted proposals to conferences to continue sharing their work with a larger community of journalists, scholars and government officials.


Fall 2022 – Spring 2023 

Team Outputs

Simeone, Micaela E.  Broadband Diffusion in Rural Maine: A Qualitative Assessment of Residents’ Attitudes. 2024. Maine Policy Review 33.1

Media Literacy and Democracy (2023 Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase)

Analyzing Media Literacy and News Consumption Habits (poster by Stephen Buckley, Philip Napoli, Asa Royal, Andrew Trexler, Jamie Cornoby, Chandlee Jackson, Micaela Simeone, Pranav Athimuthu, Leah Boyd, Meghan Durkin, Trinity Florence, Annaleise Linkenhoker, Amelia Meier, Kaylee Rodriguez and Madeline Wray, presented at Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 19, 2023)

Interactive website


Pranav Athimuthu

This Team in the News

Democracy in America: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of How To Strengthen Democracy

Meet the Members of the 2022-2023 Student Advisory Council

Meet the Winners of the 2023 Bass Connections Student Research Awards

Screens and applications.

Team Leaders

  • Stephen Buckley, Sanford School of Public Policy-DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy
  • Philip Napoli, Sanford School of Public Policy-DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy
  • Asa Royal, Sanford School of Public Policy-DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy
  • Andrew Trexler, Public Policy and Political Science–Ph.D. Student

/graduate Team Members

  • Jamie Chornoby, Masters of Public Policy
  • Chandlee Jackson, Masters of Public Policy
  • Micaela Simeone, Bioethics and Sci Policy - AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Pranav Athimuthu, Psychology (AB)
  • Leah Boyd, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Meghan Durkin, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Trinity Florence, Psychology (AB)
  • Annaleise Linkenhoker, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Amelia Meier, DKU Interdisciplinary Studies (BA)
  • Kaylee Rodriguez, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Madeline Wray, Public Policy Studies (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Leslie Babinski, Social Science Research Institute-Center for Child and Family Policy
  • Sunshine Hillygus, Arts & Sciences-Political Science