About FIE 2020

What is the Foreign Influence Election 2020 Project?

FIE 2020 was born out of lessons learned from the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As Russia, Iran and China habitually use state media apparatuses to publish propaganda, the project seeks to understand the general thrust of such efforts and assess the magnitude of any overt or subtle election influence efforts they contain.

What is the purpose of the FIE 2020 Project?

The purpose of this project is to conduct a persistent and consistent review of state-sponsored media outlets to understand their foreign influence goals and anticipate their interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

What are the key tasks of the FIE 2020 Project?

  • Generate data to inform analysis
  • Identify the sympathies and antagonisms of foreign adversaries with regards to 2020 presidential candidates
  • Identify foreign themes and messages being advanced for U.S. audiences
  • Spot and analyze the sources of information foreign adversaries utilize to subvert democracies
  • Analyze the impact of foreign influence on the presidential candidates and their campaigns
  • Compare and contrast the influence approaches employed by different countries on the U.S. populace with respect to the presidential candidates

How does it work?

Researchers identify and analyze stories from state-sponsored outlets that explicitly mention one or more U.S. presidential candidates running for election in 2020, or other relevant political figures. They analyze trends regarding how frequently and in what ways candidates are portrayed. Visit the Methodology page for more details. 

How can I learn more about the key findings of this project?

The project has recently released data on Russian coverage of Democratic candidates. You can find it here. This will be followed by data on Iranian coverage and Chinese coverage. The project will also be releasing more data on the coverage of Republican candidates and President Donald Trump by Russia, Iran and China. Those who are interested in specific trends spotted by researchers can also refer to the blog. 

When did the project start?

The FIE 2020 Project began in June of 2019. The data collected spans from January 2019 to the present day.

Who sponsors this project?

This project was made possible by contributions from Democracy Fund and the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Who conducts the FIE 2020 Project?

FPRI’s Distinguished Research Fellow Clint Watts leads this project. Watts was among the first to identify foreign election interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. Watts has testified before Congress numerous times on the threats posed to American democracy.

The Project Manager for the FIE 2020 effort is Rachel Chernaskey. Chernaskey comes to FPRI as former managing editor of Philadelphia magazine. She manages FIE 2020’s operations and entire cadre of personnel spread around the world. 

The backbone of the FIE 2020 project is a team of dozens of researchers from dozens of universities and colleges across the U.S. and Europe. Each researcher has been trained by the FIE 2020 leaders to identify information in designated foreign news sources and synthesize data related to the 2020 presidential election and its candidates. A listing of FIE 2020 team members is below and depicted on the related map.

These researchers started as volunteers and made this entire project possible. Thanks to a donation and support from Democracy Fund, we’ve been able to recently offer paid internships to advance their amazing effort. The FIE researchers are supported by donations, and if you’d like to further support their efforts, contribute to their work and increase the number of paid internships offered, please consider supporting FPRI.

In addition to the aforementioned team, the project is supported by FPRI’s core administrative staff, who provide financial and administrative oversight and assist with project management, development, editing, travel and communications efforts.

Name College
Alexander, Collins University of North Carolina
Bawa, Aditi Drexel University
Bhatnagar, Paakhi King’s College London
Cerulli, Rossella Stanford University
Chang, Kristen Wellesley College
Collins, Linnea University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Diop, Nakeshia Yale University
Ghosh, Renee Rutgers University
Glova, Tracy Prescilla Temple University
Goerdt, Cristina Catholic University of America
Hurlocker, Mason Occidental College
Jantzen, Anna Colby College
Kannan, Vishnu Michigan State University
Kokinos, Anyssia Washington University, St. Louis
Kokolis, Cyrena George Washington University
Lai, Samantha Wellesley College
Lewis, Dominique University of California, Berkeley
Long, Taylor Franklin and Marshall College
Mathews, Charlie Bucknell University
Qi, Justin Harvard University
Rabin, Alexander University of Pennsylvania
Richardson, Chloe Drexel University
Russell, Thomas University of Pennsylvania
Seligsohn, Noa Dickinson College
Smyth, Katharine University of Michigan
Tandon, Raadhika College of William & Mary
Trauger, Katherine Rowan University
Varshney, Joshita University of Pennsylvania
Venet, Mathilde Occidental College
Warwick, Marlee Bucknell University
Wendt, Weston University of Pennsylvania
Wenzel, Amanda Syracuse University
Xiao, Kevin Dartmouth College
Xu, Audrey Rutgers University
Yousef, Layla Johns Hopkins University
Students from Jackson Institute for Global Affairs