Foreign electoral intervention

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Foreign electoral interventions are attempts by governments, covertly or overtly, to influence elections in another country.

Intervention measurements[edit]

Theoretical and empirical research on the effect of foreign electoral intervention had been characterized as weak overall as late as 2011; however, since then a number of such studies have been conducted.[1]

According to Dov H. Levin's 2020 book Meddling in the Ballot Box: The Causes and Effects of Partisan Electoral Interventions, the United States intervened in the largest number of foreign elections between 1946 and 2000.[2][3] A previous 2018 study by Levin found that foreign electoral interventions determined the identity of the winner in "many cases".[4] The study also found suggestive evidence that such interventions increased the risk of democratic breakdown in the targeted states.[4]

Among 938 "competitive national level executive elections" examined by Levin from 1946 to 2000,[a] the United States intervened in 81 foreign elections, while the Soviet Union or Russia intervened in 36 foreign elections. Combining these figures, the U.S. and Russia (including the Soviet Union) thus intervened in 117 of 938 competitive elections during this period—about one in nine—with the majority of those interventions (some 68%) being through covert, rather than overt, actions.[3]

Also "on average, an electoral intervention in favor of one side contesting the election will increase its vote share by about 3 percent," an effect large enough to have potentially changed the results in seven out of 14 U.S. presidential elections occurring after 1960.[3][b][c]

In contrast, a 2019 study by Lührmann et al. at the Varieties of Democracy Institute in Sweden summarized reports from each country to say that in 2018 the most intense interventions, by means of false information on key political issues, were by China in Taiwan and by Russia in Latvia; the next highest levels were in Bahrain, Qatar and Hungary; the lowest levels were in Trinidad and Tobago, Switzerland and Uruguay.[8][9][10]

Intervention types[edit]

In a 2012 study, Corstange and Marinov theorized that there are two types of foreign intervention:[5] partisan intervention, where the foreign power takes a stance on its support for one side, and process intervention, where the foreign power seeks "to support the rules of democratic contestation, irrespective of who wins". Their results from 1,703 participants found that partisan interventions had a polarizing effect on political and foreign relations views, with the side favored by the external power more likely to favor improvements in relations between the two, and having the converse effect for those opposed by the power.

In 2018, Jonathan Godinez further elaborated on Corstange and Marinov's theory by proposing that interventions can be specified as globally-motivated intervention, where "a country intervenes in the election of another country for the interests, betterment, or well-being of the international audience," and self-motivated intervention, where "a country intervenes in the election of another country to further the interests, betterment, or well-being of themselves."[11]

Godinez further theorized that the vested interest of an intervening country can be identified by examining a "threefold methodology": the tactics of intervention, stated motivation, and the magnitude of the intervention.[11]

Also in 2012, Shulman and Bloom theorized a number of distinct factors affecting the results of foreign interference:[1]

  • Agents of interference: each with a descending effect on resentment caused by their intervention, these being nations, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and finally individuals.
  • Partisanship of interference: whether foreign actors intervene to affect institutions and process broadly, or intervene primarily to favor one side in a contest
  • Salience of interference: consisting of two elements. First, "how obvious and well-known is the interference", and second, "how clear and understandable is the intervention?"

Additionally, they theorized that national similarities between the foreign and domestic powers would decrease resentment, and may even render the interference welcome. In cases where national autonomy are of primary concern to the electorate, they predicted a diminished effect of the similarity or dissimilarity of the two powers on resentment. Conversely, they predicted that in cases where national identity was a primary concern, the importance of similarity or dissimilarity would have a greater impact.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ These covered the period between 1946 and 2000, and included 148 countries, all with populations above 100,000.
  2. ^ This is, as the author points out, "Assuming, of course, a similar shift in the relevant swing states and, accordingly, the electoral college."[3]
  3. ^ Others, such as Corstange and Marinov,[5] Miller,[6] and Gustafson[7]: 49, 73–74  have argued that foreign electoral intervention is likely to have the opposite effect.


  1. ^ a b c Shulman, Stephen; Bloom, Stephen (2012). "The legitimacy of foreign intervention in elections: the Ukrainian response". Review of International Studies. 38 (2): 445–471. doi:10.1017/S0260210512000022. S2CID 53060696. Archived from the original on 28 May 2022. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  2. ^ Levin, Dov H. (2020). Meddling in the Ballot Box: The Causes and Effects of Partisan Electoral Interventions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-751988-2.
  3. ^ a b c d Levin, Dov H. (June 2016). "When the Great Power Gets a Vote: The Effects of Great Power Electoral Interventions on Election Results". International Studies Quarterly. 60 (2): 189–202. doi:10.1093/isq/sqv016. For example, the U.S. and the USSR/Russia have intervened in one of every nine competitive national level executive elections between 1946 and 2000.
  4. ^ a b Levin, Dov (2018). "A Vote for Freedom? The Effects of Partisan Electoral Interventions on Regime Type". Journal of Conflict Resolution. 63 (4): 839–868. doi:10.1177/0022002718770507. S2CID 158135517.
  5. ^ a b Corstange, Daniel; Marinov, Nikolay (21 February 2012). "Taking Sides in Other People's Elections: The Polarizing Effect of Foreign Intervention". American Journal of Political Science. 56 (3): 655–670. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5907.2012.00583.x.
  6. ^ Miller, James (1983). "Taking off the Gloves: The United States and the Italian Elections of 1948". Diplomatic History. 7 (1): 35–56. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7709.1983.tb00381.x.
  7. ^ Gustafson, Kristian (2007). Hostile Intent: U.S. Covert Operations in Chile, 1964–1974. Potomac Books, Inc. ISBN 9781612343594. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  8. ^ Democracy Facing Global Challenges, V-DEM ANNUAL DEMOCRACY REPORT 2019, p.36 (PDF) (Report). 14 May 2019. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 June 2019. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  9. ^ Su, Alice (16 December 2019). "Can fact-checkers save Taiwan from a flood of Chinese fake news?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  10. ^ Kuo, Lily, and Lillian Yang (30 December 2019). "Taiwan's citizens battle pro-China fake news campaigns as election nears". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 1 January 2020.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ a b Godinez, Jonathan (15 August 2018). "The Vested Interest Theory: Novel Methodology Examining US-Foreign Electoral Intervention". Journal of Strategic Security. 11 (2): 1–31. doi:10.5038/1944-0472.11.2.1672. ISSN 1944-0464.
  12. ^ "Revealed: Cambridge Analytica says it worked for Uhuru". Daily Nation. Kenya. 20 March 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • David Shimer (2020). Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Interference. Knopf. ISBN 978-0525659006.