An ongoing FBI investigation is currently trying to determine the nature and extent of Russia’s intervention into the 2016 US election, including whether it involved collusion with people working for the Trump campaign. The House and Senate Intelligence committees are also pursuing the issue.
A recent news report suggests that the Obama administration learned about Russian efforts to influence the election as early as the summer, but some worried that going public with the information before the election would only further Russian goals to undermine confidence in the system.
Did Russia’s meddling affect the public’s views of the election and democracy more generally? To find out, we launched a survey just before the election and then followed up with those same people just after. The survey reached a national sample of more than 1,000 Americans and asked questions about foreign interference in the election, trust in the election, and political participation more generally.
How Democrats and Republicans perceived foreign meddling
One key set of questions related to perceptions of foreign meddling. Specifically, we asked people if they thought other countries influenced the results of the recent election and which countries had the most influence.
Around two-thirds of the people we surveyed both before and after the election perceived at least some foreign meddling. Of those who perceived meddling, 74% said it was Russia who tried to influence the results of the election. In other words, many Americans were attuned to the possibility of Russian interference, even though the most forceful statements about Russia’s meddling by US intelligence officials were made well after the election.