Shen, X. & R. Truex. (2019). “In Search of Preference Falsification.” Working Paper. Princeton University.
Citizens in authoritarian societies are thought to engage in preference falsification, voicing support for the regime in public but harboring disdain in private. Despite its influence, there is little empirical evidence for this idea. This paper proposes a simple test for assessing the prevalence of preference falsification in a given society using existing large-scale surveys. Item nonresponse rates across sensitive and nonsensitive items are used to create an index of self-censorship, which can be compared across countries, over time, and across population subgroups. Implementing the test with data from the World Values Survey shows substantial variation in preference falsification across the authoritarian world. Higher rates of self-censorship are found under regimes without meaningful electoral competition for the executive.