Foreign Anti-Mainstream Propaganda and Democratic Publics
79 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2020 Last revised: 2 Sep 2021
Date Written: October 9, 2020
Illiberal regimes use overt and covert propaganda tools to influence public opinion in democracies. We present an argument about how such propaganda impacts targeted publics. We posit that effectiveness depends on whether the source of the message is revealed, on the foreign or domestic nature of the issue, and on individual characteristics of the recipients. We test these insights in Germany, in the context of Kremlin messaging, using eight survey experiments administered to a large sample of German voters ($n=2,303$). Citizens who mistrust the government, believe in conspiracy theories, or are generally disconnected from politics are vulnerable to propaganda warfare, while the rest of the populace is not. At the same time, providing a pro-Western viewpoint and outing the Russian source are not generally effective counter-measures. We discuss the implications of illiberal regime propaganda for information wars between states and for the internal workings of democratic politics.
Keywords: hybrid regimes, propaganda, public opinion
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