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Sarah Oates

Sarah Oates

Sarah Oates

Associate Dean, Research; Professor; Senior Scholar; Director of Ph.D. Studies

Sarah Oates, Merrill College professor and senior scholar, became associate dean for research in August 2023. She also directs the Ph.D. program.

She is a scholar in the field of political communication and democratization. A major theme in her work is the way in which analysts can measure disinformation and propaganda as it travels through media systems. She has studied how traditional media and the internet can support or subvert democracy in places as diverse as Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom. Oates was designated a UMD Distinguished Scholar-Teacher in 2021. She is an affiliate professor in the UMD Department of Communication and the College of Information Studies.

Oates has published many books, articles, chapters and papers on topics including how the internet can challenge dictatorship, how election coverage varies in different countries and how national media systems cover terrorism in distinctive ways. Her current book, “Seeing Red: Russian Propaganda and American News,” is co-written with Gordon Neil Ramsay and planned for publication in 2024. 

The recipient of several fellowships and research awards, Oates has been a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a Fulbright scholar in Russia. She is a co-investigator for the UMD Grand Challenges project “Democracy Research, Education and Civic Action.” 

Oates teaches undergraduates and graduates, supervising doctoral dissertations in political communication with topics ranging from U.S. campaign coverage, how foreign propaganda penetrates domestic media systems, journalistic norms, and online political mobilization in Ukraine. Her current work focuses on how political narratives travel through media ecosystems, analyzing why some stories gain more attention than others from audiences. This includes work on how Donald Trump gained huge public attention via the media in the 2016 election. Click here to download.

Before embarking on her academic career, Oates was a journalist who published in outlets ranging from the Orlando Sentinel to The New York Times. She has lived, studied and worked in Scotland and Russia. You can view more about her work and download selected work at

Oates’ C.V.


Disinformation, Russia, elections (particularly Russian, British, U.S.), media freedom and journalists at risk, Trump and the media, media and authoritarianism, terrorism coverage, media in cross-national perspective

Research Interests

  • Media and democratization
  • Propaganda and disinformation (especially Russian) 
  • Elections and campaigns (particularly in the U.S., Russia, and United Kingdom)
Selected Publications


"Revolution Stalled: The Political Limits of the Internet in the Post-Soviet Sphere." 2013. Digital Politics series at Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199735952

"Terrorism, Elections, and Democracy: Political Campaigns in the United States, Great Britain, and Russia" (with L.L. Kaid and M. Berry). 2009. New York: Palgrave Macmillan ISBN 978-0230613577

"Introduction to Media and Politics." 2008. London: SAGE. ISBN 978-1412902625. Translated into Chinese

"Television, Democracy and Elections in Russia." 2006. London: RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0415381347

"The Internet and Politics: Citizens, Voters and Activists" (co-edited with D. Owen and R.K. Gibson). 2006. London: Routledge. ISBN 041534784X

Selected Articles, Book Chapters, and Papers 

Oates, Sarah. 2023. Nothing is True, But It Turns Out Not Everything is Possible: Putin’s Failed Attempt to Turn Strategic Narratives into Military Success in the Ukrainian Invasion. Paper presented at The British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES) Annual Conference, Glasgow, United Kingdom. 

Oates, Sarah, Doowan Lee, and David Knickerbocker. 2022. Data Analysis of Russian Disinformation Supply Chains: Finding Propaganda in the U.S. Media Ecosystem in Real Time. Paper presented at the American Political Science Association Meeting, Montreal, Canada.

Oates, Sarah, Gordon Ramsay, Olya Gurevich, Danielle Deibler, and David Rubenstein. 2021. Nyetwork News: The Convergence of the Russophobia Narrative in Russian Propaganda and Fox News in Election 2020. Paper presented (virtually) at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA.

Oates, Sarah. 2021. Rewired propaganda: propaganda, misinformation, and populism in the digital age. In Howard Tumbler and Silvio Waisbord (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Media Disinformation and Populism. New York: Routledge: 71-79. 

Oates, Sarah. 2021. War Propaganda and the Patriotic Model of the News in the 21st Century. Journalism & Communication Monographs 23(4): 329-334. 

Oates, Sarah, Olya Gurevich, Christopher Walker, Danielle Deibler, and Jesse Anderson. September 2020. Sharing a Playbook?: The Convergence of Russian and U.S. Narratives about Joe Biden. Paper presented at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting (virtual).

Oates, Sarah. 2020. The easy weaponization of social media: why profit has trumped security for U.S. companies. Digital War 5: 1-6.  

Oates, Sarah. 2019. Political scandal and kompromat: manufactured outrage from Russia. In Howard Tumbler and Silvio Waisbord (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Media and Scandal. New York: Routledge: 138-146.

Oates, Sarah and John Gray. August 2019. #Kremlin: Using Hashtags to Analyze Russian Disinformation Strategy and Dissemination on Twitter. Paper presented at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C.

Oates, Sarah, Olya Gurevich, Christopher Walker, and Lucina Di Meco. August 2019. Running While Female: Using AI to Track how Twitter Commentary Disadvantages Women in the 2020 U.S. Primaries. Paper presented at the Political Communication Preconference at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C. or

Ramsay, Gordon and Sarah Oates. June 2019. Russian Needles in Western Media Haystacks: Using Text-Matching to Detect Disinformation and Propaganda in British and US Media. Paper presented at the Digital Threats to Democracy: Comparative Lessons and Possible Remedies Workshop funded by the Social Science Research Council, New York, June 12-13, 2019. 

Oates, Sarah. 2018. Russian Import or Made in America? In Ellen Shearer and Matt Mansfield (eds.) Truth Counts: A Practical Guide for News Consumers. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, pp. 143-160. 

Oates, Sarah, Joseph Barrow, and Bobbie Foster. October 2018. From Network to Narrative: Understanding the Nature and Trajectory of Russian Disinformation in the U.S. News. Presented at the International Journal of Press/Politics Conference, Oxford UK.

Oates, Sarah. August 2018. When Media Worlds Collide: Using Media Model Theory to Understand How Russia Spreads Disinformation in the United States. Presented at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Political Communication Section, Boston, MA.

Trevisan, Filippo, Andrew Hoskins, Sarah Oates and Dounia Mahlouly. 2018. The Google Voter: Search Engines and Elections in the New Media Ecology. Information, Communication & Society 21(1): 111-128.

Oates, Sarah and Wendy W. Moe. Donald Trump and the “Oxygen of Publicity”: Branding, Social Media, and Traditional Media. 2017. In Dan Schill and John Allen Hendricks (eds.) The Presidency and Social Media: Discourse, Disruption, and Digital Democracy in the 2016 Presidential Election. 1st edition. New York: Routledge. 

Oates, Sarah. October 2017. A Perfect Storm: American Media, Russian Propaganda. Current History 116 (792): 282-284. 

Oates, Sarah. 2017. Kompromat Goes Global? Assessing a Russian Media Tool in the United States. Slavic Review. Vol 76(S1): S57-S65.

Oates, Sarah. 2016. Russian Media in the Digital Age: Propaganda Rewired. Russian Politics 1(4): 398-417. 

Regina Smyth and Sarah Oates. 2015. Mind the Gaps: Media Use and Mass Action in Russia. Europe-Asia Studies 67(2): 285-305.

The Neo-Soviet Model of the Media. 2007. Europe-Asia Studies 59(8): 1279-1297.


Visiting Professor, Mohyla School of Journalism, National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (Ukraine)


B.A., Yale University
M.A., Emory University
Ph.D., Emory University

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