Public Trust in Internet Voting Systems: Evidence from Russian Public Opinion
28 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2021 Last revised: 27 Dec 2021
Date Written: December 2, 2021
What are the determinants of individual-level trust in Internet-based voting in non-democracies? Modern digital and electronic transformations of the electoral process offer citizens new forms of voting, however it is not clear which citizens are prepared to trust these innovations. Existing work on trust in internet-based voting has mainly focused on Western democracies, where well-functioning institutions curb potential abuses. As a consequence, existing perspectives have drawn on work on technology adoption and focused on individual-level cost-benefit analyses and elite framing of these technologies. In non-democracies, however, there are few checks and balances on electoral manipulations that allow the authorities to shape outcomes extra-legally. In such settings, institutional trust in the authorities and beliefs about the ease with which internet-based voting can be abused take on new and greater salience. In this paper, we provide an exploratory analysis aimed at testing whether existing perspectives help explain trust in internet-based voting in electoral non-democracies, as well as whether concerns about abuse also play a role. To test these arguments, we make use of an online survey of over 16,250 respondents in the Russian Federation, a case regarded as archetypical in the literature on electoral non-democracies. Our findings provide important insights into public opinion surrounding novel electoral procedures, generally, and internet-based voting, more specifically, in non-democracies. These insights, in turn, have important implications for our understanding of attitudes towards electoral integrity in non-democracies and the potential for popular constraints on the ability of autocrats to modify electoral procedures to reproduce power.
Keywords: Internet voting, Institutional trust, Risk, Electoral Processes, Public opinion, Technology adoption, online voting, Russia, COVID
JEL Classification: D8, D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation