Author: Antonios Nestoras and Raluca Cirju
The coronavirus pandemic has invited an overflow of disinformation in Europe and therefore has been an entry point foreign influence operations from rival authoritarian countries. In this respect, the literature agrees that Chinese disinformation operations became more aggressive, and China joined Russia as a major EU rival in the information domain. A key problem in this regard is how to evaluate the influence of foreign disinformation in Europe and elsewhere.
This paper argues that measuring public opinion perceptions about major state actors can help gauge the impact of foreign influence operations. Analysing the results of a 19 countries survey and approximately twenty-one thousand responders the paper attempts to measure and compare European public opinion perceptions about China and Russia during the pandemic. The results resonate with and substantiate the position of many scholars who have called the Covid-19 crisis an ‘infodemic’ and show that China was more successful than Russia in influencing public opinion perceptions in Europe during the pandemic.