Does Russian Election Interference Damage Support for U.S.~Alliances? The Case of Japan
41 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2020 Last revised: 18 May 2021
Date Written: May 17, 2021
Scholars and practitioners often argue that the United States' identity as a democracy contributes to the effectiveness and endurance of U.S. military alliances. One way to test this claim is to ask: what would happen if citizens of allied countries came to perceive U.S. democracy as severely flawed or diminished? In the context of the now well-documented Russian interference in recent U.S. elections, we examine whether Russia's election interference and its perceived impact on American democracy damage foreign public opinion about the U.S. The results of our survey experiment fielded in Japan suggest that information about successful Russian election interference---i.e., interference that had an impact on the election outcome---reduces foreign citizens' faith in the U.S. as an ally. This pattern most clearly manifests in reduced belief in the U.S. capacity to defend Japan. Our study sheds light on the connections between the image of the U.S., both as a democracy and as a capable state, and the foreign public's attitudes toward U.S. alliances, with theoretical and practical implications.
Keywords: alliance, soft power, electoral meddling, trust, Trump, Russia, Japan
JEL Classification: C91, D74, D78, D83
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation