Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy > Vol 1 > Issue 4

Truth or Dare? Detecting Systematic Manipulation of COVID-19 Statistics

Fatih Serkant Adiguzel, Duke University, USA, , Asli Cansunar, University of Oxford, UK, , Gozde Corekcioglu, Kadir Has University, Turkey,
Suggested Citation
Fatih Serkant Adiguzel, Asli Cansunar and Gozde Corekcioglu (2020), "Truth or Dare? Detecting Systematic Manipulation of COVID-19 Statistics", Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy: Vol. 1: No. 4, pp 543-557.

Publication Date: 18 Nov 2020
© 2020 F. S. Adiguzel, A. Cansunar, and G. Corekcioglu
Democracy,  Public policy
COVID-19digit-based testsstatistical malpracticedemocracy


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In this article:
Methodology and Data 


Which countries manipulate COVID-19 statistics? Does the party ideology of local governors affect the probability of data manipulation at subnational levels? How does democratic quality affect statistical transparency during the pandemic? In this article, we apply election fraud detection methods — various digit-based tests that exploit human biases in generating random numbers — to the daily announced official numbers of new and cumulative coronavirus infections. First, we use digit-based tests to identify countries that likely manipulated their pandemic statistics. We then move on to examine the empirical relationship between democratic quality and data transparency. We find suggestive evidence that data manipulation occurred in China, the United States, Russia, and Turkey. Second, we show that non-democracies, as well as countries without free and fair elections, are more likely to release data that display signs of statistical malpractice.



Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy, Volume 1, Issue 4 Special issue - The Political Economy of Pandemics, Part I
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.