Sumitra Badrinathan

PhD Student | Political Science

Sumitra Badrinathan is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include studying misinformation, media effects, and comparative politics, with a regional focus on India.

Sumitra uses experimental and survey methods to study the relationship between newer forms of social media like WhatsApp and their effect on fake news, polarization, political participation, and quality of democracy.

Selected Publications

Sumitra Badrinathan

(2020). Educative Interventions to Combat Misinformation: Evidence from A Field Experiment in India. Forthcoming.

Misinformation makes democratic governance harder, especially in developing countries. Despite its real-world import, little is known about how to combat fake news outside of the U.S., particularly in places with low education, accelerating Internet access, and encrypted information sharing.

This study uses a field experiment in India to test the efficacy of a pedagogical intervention on respondents’ ability to identify fake news during the 2019 elections (N=1224). Treated respondents received in-person media literacy training in which enumerators demonstrated two tools to identify fake news: reverse image searching and navigating a fact-checking website.

Receiving this hour-long media literacy intervention did not significantly increase respondents’ ability to identify fake news on average. However, treated respondents who support the ruling party became significantly less able to identify pro-attitudinal fake news. These findings point to the resilience of misinformation in India and the presence of motivated reasoning in a traditionally non-ideological party system.