2018 midterms

40% Plurality of Voters ‘Much More Likely’ to Vote if Foreigners Interfere in Midterms

47% of respondents believe Russia is likely to try to influence next week’s elections

Voters cast ballots during the early voting period at C.T. Martin Natatorium and Recreation Center on Oct. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
  • 48% of voters believe Russian interference would benefit Republican candidates; 15% said it would help Democrats.

  • 70% of Democratic respondents believe Russia will interfere in next week’s elections, while 25% of Republicans held the same view.

A 40 percent plurality of U.S. voters in a recent Morning Consult/Politico poll said they’re “much more likely” to cast their votes if it turns out that a foreign country has been meddling in the November midterms, suggesting the specter of election interference will not keep people from the ballot box.

The survey, conducted Oct. 25-30 among a national sample of 2,543 registered voters, also found that 47 percent of respondents believe it’s likely Russia will try to interfere in next week’s elections for the House of Representatives and some U.S. senators.

But views differed by party, with Democratic voters more likely than Republicans or independents to believe that Russia will try to influence the midterms. Seventy percent of Democrats said they believe it is likely Russia will try to interfere in next Tuesday’s elections, compared with 46 percent of independents and 25 percent of Republicans.

Democrats were also more strongly motivated to vote in the face of potential election meddling: 51 percent of these voters said foreign election interference would make them “much more likely” to cast their vote, along with 29 percent of independents and a 37 percent plurality of Republicans.

One reason could be that 70 percent of Democratic voters view any Russian election interference as being more beneficial to Republican candidates, compared to 27 percent of GOP voters and a 45 percent plurality of independents who agreed with this view.

Overall, 48 percent voters said GOP candidates would benefit from foreign meddling in the elections, 15 percent said Democratic candidates and 37 percent they didn’t know or had no opinion.

During an Aug. 2 press conference at the White House, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats acknowledged the ongoing threat of Russian election meddling following the intelligence community’s conclusion last year that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

The Trump administration has also called out other countries, including China and Iran, for attempting to interfere in the U.S. political process and the upcoming midterms.

Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, said election meddling is designed to cause voters “to lose faith in the voting system and not trust it.”

“Our system works when people go out and vote,” Norden said in a phone interview Tuesday. “The object of attacking these systems is to keep people from having their voice heard. To me, the right reaction is to say, ‘You’re not going to prevent me from voting and participating in the system, and you’re not going to damage our democracy.’ ”

The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, found that 12 percent of voters said they would be less likely to vote if it was determined Russia or another country was interfering in the midterms.

Jan Leighley, a political science professor at American University who specializes in American political behavior and voter turnout, said voters who feel threatened and view the act of casting a ballot as a form of expression “would perhaps be more likely to vote to express their support for the system.”