AMERICAN & COMPARATIVE POLITICAL BEHAVIOR WORKSHOP
Abstract: There is widespread concern that foreign actors are using social media to interfere in elections worldwide. Yet data have been unavailable to investigate links between exposure to foreign influence campaigns and political behavior. Using longitudinal survey data from US respondents linked to their Twitter feeds, we quantify the relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and attitudes and voting behavior in the 2016 US election. We demonstrate, first, that exposure to Russian disinformation accounts was heavily concentrated: only 1% of users accounted for 70% of exposures. Second, exposure was concentrated among users who strongly identified as Republicans. Third, exposure to the Russian influence campaign was eclipsed by content from domestic news media and politicians. Finally, we find no evidence of a meaningful relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and changes in attitudes, polarization, or voting behavior. The results have implications for understanding the limits of election interference campaigns on social media.
Joshua A. Tucker is Professor of Politics, affiliated Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies, and affiliated Professor of Data Science at New York University. He is the Director of NYU’s Jordan Center for Advanced Study of Russia and co-Director of the NYU Center for Social Media and Politics (csmapnyu.org); he also served as a co-author/editor of the award-winning politics and policy blog The Monkey Cage at The Washington Post for over a decade. His research focuses on the intersection of social media and politics, including partisan echo chambers, online hate speech, the effects of exposure to social media on political knowledge, online networks and protest, disinformation and fake news, how authoritarian regimes respond to online opposition, and Russian bots and trolls. He is the co-Chair of the external academic team for the U.S. 2020 Facebook & Instagram Election Study, serves on the advisory board of the American National Election Study, the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, and numerous academic journals, and was the co-founder and co-editor of the Journal of Experimental Political Science. An internationally recognized scholar, he has been a keynote speaker for conferences in Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Brazil, the Netherlands, and the United States, and has given over 200 invited research presentations at top domestic and international universities and research centers. His most recent books are the co-authored Communism’s Shadow: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Political Attitudes (Princeton University Press, 2017), and the co-edited Social Media and Democracy: The State of the Field (Cambridge University Press, 2020).
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The series is sponsored by the ISPS Center for the Study of American Politics and The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale with support from the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund.