Russian disinformation – a term that has received renewed attention in the mainstream media due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, but a practice that dates back to the tsars. This study uses a survey experiment to answer four key questions about the effectiveness of Russia's current disinformation efforts on Americans. First, I test the extent to which Americans are able to identify Russian disinformation. Second, I test the extent to which Russian disinformation influences American political attitudes. Third, I test the extent to which the ability to identify Russian disinformation and political attitudes after exposure to Russian disinformation are affected by knowledge of the disinformation's source. Finally, I divide the Russian disinformation into three categories - U.S. domestic politics, U.S. foreign policy, and NATO – and test if there are differences in effectiveness based on the topic of the disinformation. I find that Americans are generally able to identify Russian disinformation and that exposure to Russian disinformation does not generally influence political attitudes, except for certain attitudes on foreign policy. Knowledge of the source of the information surprisingly makes no difference in Americans' ability to detect Russian disinformation, nor does it cause differences in political attitudes. Americans, however, have more difficulty identifying Russian disinformation about U.S. foreign policy and NATO than about U.S. domestic politics. By examining the effectiveness of Russian disinformation at the individual level, this study helps scholars and policymakers further understand how disinformation can be used to achieve larger goals such as interfering in elections, influencing certain foreign policy decisions, or causing civil unrest.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
School of Politics, Security and International Affairs
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Campus-only Access)
Ebert, Michael, "Assessing the Effectiveness of Russian Disinformation on Americans" (2022). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 1374.
Restricted to the UCF community until December 2025; it will then be open access.