Why Conspiratorial Propaganda Works and What We Can Do About It: Audience Vulnerability and Resistance to Anti-Western, pro-Kremlin Disinformation in Ukraine


A joint research project by Arena, Internews Ukraine, Public Interest Journalism Lab, and the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research has explored audience vulnerability and resistance to conspiratorial narratives, through a combination of media monitoring, polling, and focus groups.

The most effective propaganda resonates with audiences’ underlying worldviews and personal experiences. In order to fight it, one has to understand the mindsets that it preys on. This paper sets out to do exactly that.

Authors first track a set of Kremlin-aligned propaganda narratives across Ukrainian media, then measure their overall traction through a representative national survey conducted by the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich, and finally use focus groups to understand their deeper appeal and impact. This gives us a uniquely holistic view of contemporary propaganda: from its sources, dissemination, and impact on society right through to how it is received and perceived from the point of view of audiences.

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