Abstract: There is growing anxiety about the influence of international propaganda on public opinion. Under what conditions can countries shift foreign public opinion against an adversary? Does making people aware that news is coming from a foreign source mitigate its influence? I examine these questions in the context of Russian propaganda in the United States. I subject subgroups of Americans to an article from Russia Today (RT), a Russian international television network, criticizing the Ukrainian government. I vary whether audiences are aware of the message source, and/or the intentions, of the Russian-funded network. I show that exposure to information about Ukrainian human rights violations lowers Americans’ evaluations of Ukraine irrespective of source awareness – indicating that making people more aware of foreign propaganda does not attenuate its influence. The findings have important implications for understanding the micro-level effects of international propaganda and the effectiveness of counter-propaganda strategies.
Abstract:Do states’ partnerships with foreign elites influence international public opinion? During Russia's annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin strengthened its ties with far-left and far-right European parties—leading some European elites to express more explicit pro-Russian positions. This paper analyzes how these elite-level ties influence ordinary individuals’ foreign policy attitudes, offering insight into the conditions under which soft power “trickles down.” By leveraging public opinion data before and after the conflict in Crimea (2012–2017), and employing an estimation strategy that follows the same logic as a standard differences-in-differences strategy, I demonstrate that Russia's linkages with anti-establishment parties led to greater confidence in Vladimir Putin over time, but had limited impact on favorability toward Russia, the United States, and NATO. These findings have important implications for autocratic public diplomacy, our conceptualization of soft power, and Russian foreign policy.
Abstract:What is the relationship between international audiences’ views of Russia and the United States? Historically, Russia and the United States were international rivals, competing over foreign public opinion (Cull, 2008; Thompson, 1999; Westad, 2005). More recently, Russia and the United States reignited their rivalry by taking opposing sides in the conflicts in Crimea and Syria, leading some to conclude that Russia and the United States have become engaged in a “new Cold War” (Lucas, 2014; Maness & Valeriano, 2015; Trenin, 2014).
Abstract: Does President Trump face domestic costs for foreign policy inconsistency? Will co-partisans and opposition-partisans equally punish Donald Trump for issuing flippant international threats and backing down? While the president said he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” without losing voters, the literature consistently shows that individuals, regardless of partisanship, disapprove of leaders who jeopardize the country’s reputation for credibility and resolve. Given the atypical nature of the Trump presidency, and the severe partisan polarization surrounding it, we investigate whether the logic of audience costs still applies in the Trump era. Using a unique experiment fielded during the 2016 presidential transition, we show that Republicans and Democrats impose equal audience costs on President Trump. And by varying the leader’s identity, between Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and “The President,” we demonstrate that the public adheres to a non-partisan logic in punishing leaders who renege on threats. Yet we also find Presidents Trump and Obama can reduce the magnitude of audience costs by justifying backing down as being “in America’s interest.” Even Democrats, despite their doubts of Donald Trump’s credibility, accept such justifications. Our findings encourage further exploration of partisan cues, leader-level attributes, and leader-level reputations.
Is Russian Propaganda Making Us More Cynical?Under review.
The Consequences of Propaganda's Presumed Influence.Under review.
How to Criticize an Autocrat: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Russia. Under review.
Trust in Foreign Media and Anti-Regime Attitudes in Russia. Under review.
Democratic Backsliding and Public Support for War, with Miles M. Evers.