Camouflaged propaganda: A survey experiment on political native advertising

Yaoyao Dai*, Rose L W LUQIU

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


We examine a new form of propaganda, political native advertising, in which political actors, including foreign governments, buy space in independent media outlets to publish advertisements that are camouflaged as standard news stories. Those who engage in this form of propaganda hope to exploit the higher credibility of the hosting media site to enhance the persuasiveness of their message. Despite the obvious political implications and ethical issues at stake, political native advertising has received almost no scholarly attention. Our article begins to redress this imbalance. Using an online survey experiment with real political native advertisements in the Washington Post and The Telegraph bought by the Chinese government, we provide some of the first empirical evidence on basic but important features of political native advertising. We find, among other things, that respondents struggle to distinguish political advertisements from standard news stories regardless of their level of education and media literacy, that political advertisements are more convincing if they appear on and are perceived as news from an independent hosting media site than in a government-controlled news outlet, and that trust in the hosting media site declines if the political advertisement is detected.

Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch and Politics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Political Science and International Relations

User-Defined Keywords

  • China Watch
  • disinformation campaign
  • native advertising
  • political native advertising
  • propaganda


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