Most Utahns believe efforts by Russia or other foreign nations to influence American elections is a problem, with more than half saying that outside interference is a major issue.

A new Utah Political Trends poll from UtahPolicy.com and Y2 Analytics asked Utah voters to their thoughts on efforts by foreign entities, including Russia, to influence the outcome of American elections.

Overall, do you think the attempts by Russia or other foreign governments to influence the U.S. elections are a major problem, a minor problem, or not a problem at all?

  • A major problem - 51%
  • A minor problem - 32%
  • Not a problem at all - 18%

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UtahPolicy.com pollster Kelly Patterson of Y2 Analytics says the results show Utahns are more aware of potential foreign interference in elections.

“Citizens will now strive to be a little more cognizant of the information they consume. And yet, citizens will still want to seek and use information that helps them make the case that their decisions are correct,” he said.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian government's interference in the 2016 election was widespread and sweeping with the purpose of hurting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton while boosting the electoral chances of Donald Trump.

On Wednesday during his televised testimony before Congress, Mueller warned Russia and other countries are poised to interfere with the 2020 election through disinformation campaigns or other means. 

“They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign,” said Mueller.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that it’s not just the Russians looking to become a player in the 2020 elections. Intelligence officials are warning that Iran and other countries are poised to wage extensive influence campaigns targeting American voters next year.

A bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee released on Thursday said election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russian hackers in 2016. The hacking was largely undetected by state officials.

There is a sharp partisan divide in Utah over whether foreign interference in the election is a serious problem or not, with Democrats and liberals very worried about the possibility, while Republicans and conservatives viewing it as less of a pressing issue. Independent voters lean more toward viewing the issue 

  • 96% of “strong” Democrats, 85% of moderate Democrats and 86% of independents who lean toward Democrats say foreign influence in elections is a major problem.
  • 93% of self-described “strong” liberals and 83% of “moderately” liberal Utah voters say foreign influence in elections spells trouble.
  • 84% of political independents describe Russian manipulation as a pressing issue, with 52% saying it’s a major problem. 

Overall, Utah Republicans and conservatives view attempts by foreign entities to influence elections as a threat, but not as urgently as their Democratic counterparts. 

  • 65% of “strong” Republicans describe the issue as a problem, but only 21% say it’s a major issue.
  • 77% of moderate Republicans believe foreign influence is a problem, but just 29% say it’s a major problem.
  • 77% of independents who lean Republican agree that foreign meddling is a problem. Just over a quarter (27%) say it’s a serious issue.

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Patterson says it’s possible that both Republicans and Democrats view the issue through their respective partisan lenses.

“Those individuals who believe that the Russians had a significant influence in the election are disposed to do so because of their partisan dislike for President Trump. Those individuals who downplay the involvement of the Russians in the election do so in part because they want to believe President Trump and his narrative,” said Patterson.

The Utah Political Trends Panel was conducted among a random sample of 2,608 registered Utah voters using an online survey. The results were weighted to reflect Utah’s demographic makeup. The survey has a margin of error +/- 2.1%. You can read more about the survey’s methodology here.