Assessing the Russian Internet Research Agency’s Impact on the Political Attitudes and Behaviors of American Twitter Users in Late 2017

Abstract

While numerous studies analyze the strategy of online influence campaigns, their impact on the public remains an open question. We investigate this question combining longitudinal data on 1,239 Republicans and Democrats from late 2017 with data on Twitter accounts operated by the Russian Internet Research Agency. We find no evidence that interacting with these accounts substantially impacted 6 political attitudes and behaviors. Descriptively, interactions with trolls were most common among individuals who use Twitter frequently, have strong social-media “echo chambers” and high interest in politics. These results suggest Americans may not be easily susceptible to online influence campaigns, but leave unanswered important questions about the impact of Russia’s campaign on misinformation, political discourse, and 2016 presidential election campaign dynamics.

Publication
Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences (PNAS)