Can the introduction of the Internet undermine incumbent power in a semi-authoritarian regime? I examine this question using evidence from Malaysia, where the incumbent coalition lost its 40-year monopoly on power in 2008. I develop a novel methodology for measuring Internet penetration, matching IP addresses with physical locations, and apply it to the 2004 to 2008 period in Malaysia. Using distance to the backbone to instrument for endogenous Internet penetration, I find that areas with higher Internet penetration experience higher voter turnout and higher candidate turnover, with the Internet accounting for one-third of the 11% swing against the incumbent party in 2008. The results suggest that, in the absence of the Internet, the opposition would not have achieved its historic upset in the 2008 elections.
Luke Miner recently completed his PhD in economics from the London School of Economics. He was also a postdoctoral fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law in the Liberation Technology Program. He is currently working as a data scientist in the techology sector.
Miner’s research interests are political economy and development economics. In particular, he aims to quantitatively assess the effect of the Internet and new media on political accountability, development, and election outcomes. His past research finds a strong effect of Internet diffusion on results of Malaysia's 2008 elections, where it contributed to the ruling coalition's largest electoral setback in thirty years. His current research looks at the effect of the Internet on the 2008 U.S. presidential elections, in particular as a means of promoting campaign contributions.