“What Americans really think about foreign interference in U.S. elections”

Michael Tomz and Jessica Weeks for The Monkey Cage:

In March and April 2018, we surveyed 2,948 U.S. adults, who resembled the general U.S. population with respect to gender, age, geographic location and race. The online survey asked all participants to read a hypothetical scenario about the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

We randomly assigned participants to four groups, which varied in the extent to which a foreign country — either China, Turkey or Pakistan — interfered in the election….

We found that foreign involvement provoked public disapproval, which increased with the level of intervention. When the foreign country stayed out, only 5 percent of respondents disapproved of how the foreign country behaved. Disapproval was 35 percentage points higher when the foreign country endorsed a candidate, and 52 points higher when the foreign country coupled its endorsement with a threat.

Disapproval spiked even higher among those in the action group, who learned that the foreign country either spread damaging but true information (up 75 points), spread lies (81 points), gave money (86 points) or hacked into voting machines (85 points).

Reactions varied strongly by party, however. For example, disapproval among Democrats surged 53 points when a foreign country endorsed a Republican candidate — but just 26 points when the foreign county endorsed a Democrat. Democrats also objected much more strongly to threats in support of Republican candidates (a 71-point spike in disapproval) than to threats intended to help Democratic contenders (38 points).

Republicans reacted along similar lines, disapproving far more strongly when the foreign country used endorsements or threats to help a Democrat than when it took identical steps in favor of the Republican. Such partisan double standards persisted even when the foreign country actively manipulated information, campaign funding or voting machines.


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