When Bad News is Good News: Information Acquisition in Times of Economic Crisis

  • Dani M. MarinovaEmail author
  • Eva Anduiza
Original Paper


A strong argument can be made for the prime importance of information in the context of an economic recession. It is in times of crisis that information on the state of the economy is abundant and citizens have incentives to acquire it in order to sanction incumbents for mismanagement of the economy. Simultaneously, however, economic hardship strains people’s cognitive resources and motivations to seek relevant information. Using a novel research design, we assess how the recent economic recession has shaped information acquisition. Our results indicate that while personal economic hardship depresses levels of information, the recession overall boosted considerably the public’s knowledge of the state of the economy and, to a lesser degree, of parties’ policy positions in elections. For both economic and electoral types of information, economically marginal groups caught up to the economically secure in contexts of economic hardship, thereby reducing information inequalities. We discuss the findings’ implications for representative democracy.


Electoral information Economic information Gaps in political knowledge Economic crisis Economic voting 



We thank Tim Hellwig, Enrique Hernández, Jordi Muñoz, Paul Marx and the three anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions. We also thank the participants at the workshops “Inequalities in Political Knowledge” at the ECPR Joint Sessions in Salamanca, ‘Political knowledge and information processing’ at the University of Vienna and the CSES conference ‘Representation and Participation around the World’ in Taipei, for their helpful remarks on earlier versions of this paper. Replication materials can be found at

Supplementary material

11109_2018_9503_MOESM1_ESM.doc (530 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 530 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departament de Ciència Política i Dret Públic, Avinguda de l’Eix Central Edifii B2Universitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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