As the 2020 presidential campaign ramps up, a growing share of Americans say it is likely that Russia or other foreign governments will attempt to influence the November election. At the same time, confidence in the federal government to prevent election interference by foreign governments has declined.

Growing shares in both parties expect foreign governments to attempt to influence 2020 election

Three-quarters of U.S. adults say it is very or somewhat likely that Russia or other foreign governments will attempt to influence the presidential election, including 44% who say it is very likely, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted July 27-Aug. 2.

These views have changed little since January. But Americans are now more likely to expect foreign election interference than they were in October 2018 – shortly before that fall’s midterms – when 67% expected it. And the share who say such efforts are very likely is 12 percentage points higher now than two years ago.

Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand Americans’ views of foreign election interference and other election security issues. For this analysis, we conducted an online survey of 11,001 U.S. adults between July 27 and Aug. 2, 2020.

Everyone who took part is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology. Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

In both parties, the shares of adults who expect foreign governments to try to influence the nation’s election are higher than two years ago, though Democrats remain considerably more likely than Republicans to expect this.

Today, 62% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say it is very or somewhat likely that foreign governments will attempt to influence the election this November. In October 2018, when asked about the likelihood foreign governments would attempt to influence the midterm elections, 53% of Republicans said this was likely.  

Nearly nine-in-ten Democrats and Democratic leaners (88%) now expect foreign governments to try to influence the presidential election, up from 80% who said this in 2018 about the midterms. The share of Democrats who see such efforts as very likely is 17 percentage points higher than it was two years ago (60% now, 43% before the midterms).

Among those who say foreign interference is likely, partisan divides over whether it’s a ‘major problem’

Among those who expect that Russia or other foreign governments will try to influence the election, about six-in-ten (62%) say this is a major problem. Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans to view attempts to influence the election as a major problem (78% vs. 37%).

Opinions about whether attempts by foreign governments to influence the presidential election are a major problem are strongly associated with views of how likely this is to occur. Among those who say efforts at foreign interference are very likely, 80% say it is a major problem. By comparison, a much smaller share of those saying interference is somewhat likely (37%) say the same.

However, even among those who say foreign interference is very likely, there are sizable partisan gaps in the share viewing such attempts as a major problem.

Nine-in-ten Democrats who say attempts to interfere are very likely say this is a major problem, compared with 56% of Republicans who say attempts at interference are very likely. There also are wide partisan differences among those who see efforts by foreign governments to influence the election as somewhat likely.

Only about half of Americans are confident the federal government is making ‘serious efforts’ to protect election systems from hacking and other threats

Meanwhile, Americans have become less confident that the federal government is making serious efforts to protect U.S. elections from hacking and other technological threats. Since October 2018, the share of Americans who say this has declined from 55% to 47%.

Confidence in the government’s efforts to protect election systems has declined among members of both parties, though Republicans remain far more likely than Democrats to express confidence (65% vs. 32%).

Note: Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Hannah Hartig  is a research associate focusing on U.S. politics and policy research at Pew Research Center.