A study examines the link between Russian social media campaigns and political polarization in the United States. Amid concern that social media campaigns launched by Russia influenced political attitudes in the United States, the extent to which such campaigns increased political polarization is unclear. Christopher A. Bail and colleagues analyzed whether interacting online with Russian trolls influenced the political attitudes and behaviors of 1,239 Republicans and Democrats in the United States who use Twitter. The authors linked data from surveys conducted in October and November of 2017 with data from the social media platform itself. The authors found no evidence that trolling accounts maintained by the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) significantly influenced ideology, opinions about social policy issues, attitudes of partisans toward each other, or patterns of political following on Twitter. The findings suggest that IRA accounts may not have significantly polarized the US public, in part because they mostly interacted with individuals who were already highly polarized. Although the authors were unable to analyze the role of Russian influence in the 2016 US presidential election, the findings are consistent with previous research showing the difficulty of altering people's political views, according to the authors.
Article #19-06420: "Assessing the Russian Internet Research Agency's impact on the political attitudes and behaviors of American Twitter users in late 2017," by Christopher A. Bail et al.
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences