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Public Opinion and Foreign Electoral Intervention

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 April 2020

Stanford University
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Michael Tomz, William Bennett Munro Professor in Political Science, Stanford University, Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research,
Jessica L. P. Weeks, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin–Madison,


Foreign electoral intervention is an increasingly important tool for influencing politics in other countries, yet we know little about when citizens would tolerate or condemn foreign efforts to sway elections. In this article, we use experiments to study American public reactions to revelations of foreign electoral intervention. We find that even modest forms of intervention polarize the public along partisan lines. Americans are more likely to condemn foreign involvement, lose faith in democracy, and seek retaliation when a foreign power sides with the opposition, than when a foreign power aids their own party. At the same time, Americans reject military responses to electoral attacks on the United States, even when their own political party is targeted. Our findings suggest that electoral interference can divide and weaken an adversary without provoking the level of public demand for retaliation typically triggered by conventional military attacks.

Research Article
© American Political Science Association 2020

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This material is based in part on work supported by the National Science Foundation under award numbers SES-1226855 and SES-1226824. For extremely helpful comments on earlier versions of this article, we thank participants at the American Political Science Association conference (2018, 2019), the International Studies Association conference (2018), the Barcelona-Gothenburg-Bergen Workshop in Experimental Political Science (2018), the Midwest Political Science Association conference (2019), the Upper Midwest International Relations Conference (2018), and the Pacific International Politics Conference (2018), and seminar participants at Academia Sinica, Berkeley, Columbia, Cornell, Facebook, Hebrew University, Princeton, Stanford, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Washington University in St. Louis. We are also grateful for comments from Kirk Bansak, Mark Bell, Andrew Blinkinsop, Sarah Bush, Stephen Chaudoin, Ben Fordham, Herb Lin, Josh Kertzer, Jon Krosnick, Carrie Lee, Dov Levin, Jordi Muñoz, Urte Peteris, Jon Pevehouse, Katy Powers, Lauren Prather, and Jonathan Renshon. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:



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Tomz and Weeks Dataset

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Tomz and Weeks Supplementary Materials

Tomz and Weeks Supplementary Materials

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