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“National Images and Foreign Policy Attitudes: Can Russia Sway American Public Opinion?” by Kasey Rhee, Charles Crabtree, and Yusaku Horiuchi
December 2 @ 9:00 am – 10:00 am JST
Abstract: Can emphasizing the suspected insincerity of foreign countries’ motives reduce their ability to influence U.S. public opinion? Foreign countries are influencing politics in other countries with increasing intensity and ease, but we have yet to locate strategies for moderating such intervention. In this article, we use experiments to examine whether suspicion and elite opinion can inspire greater vigilance against foreign overtures. Using the case of Russian donations to the U.S. during the 2020 pandemic, we find that diplomatic acts of goodwill do influence American foreign policy preferences, and decrease support for hostile measures against Russia. However, when Americans are exposed to speculation that these gestures may be insincerely motivated, their newfound leniency is attenuated. Our findings suggest that foreign countries can manipulate U.S. public opinion by using diplomatic gestures, but domestic media and elites can guard against foreign influence by inspiring suspicion.