This may be old news (about a month) but it is still worth posting. A poll was recently conducted by Public Policy Polling of Americans on the topic of conspiracy theories. The number really do not surprise me very much. If anything, it shows a few conspiracy theories are LESS popular than I might have expected. Then again, the numbers are still soberingly high.
Conspiracy Percent believing Number of Americans believing JFK was killed by conspiracy 51 percent 160,096,160 Bush intentionally misled on Iraq WMDs 44 percent 138,122,178 Global warming is a hoax 37 percent 116,148,195 Aliens exist 29 percent 91,035,072 New World Order 28 percent 87,895,931 Hussein was involved in 9/11 28 percent 87,895,931 A UFO crashed at Roswell 21 percent 65,921,948 Vaccines are linked to autism 20 percent 62,782,808 The government controls minds with TV 15 percent 47,087,106 Medical industry invents diseases 15 percent 47,087,106 CIA developed crack 14 percent 43,947,966 Bigfoot exists 14 percent 43,947,966 Obama is the Antichrist 13 percent 40,808,825 The government allowed 9/11 11 percent 34,530,544 Fluoride is dangerous 9 percent 28,252,264 The moon landing was faked 7 percent 21,973,983 Bin Laden is alive 6 percent 18,834,842 Airplane contrails are sinister chemicals 5 percent 15,695,702 McCartney died in 1966 5 percent 15,695,702 Lizard people control politics 4 percent 12,556,562
The margin of error of the poll is 2.8 percent. As with any poll, it’s important to remember that the margin of error may not reflect the true accuracy of the poll, as it can depend on factors like how careful the pollsters were in selecting an appropriate demographic cross-section of the US. It’s very easy to get skewed results with polling, because telephone surveys tend to get more responses from certain demographics, such as retirees, the unemployed and others who are more likely to be home and willing to answer questions. Still, the numbers certainly seem plausible and are in line with other polls that have been conducted.
Of course, one also wonders how many people might say yes to certain conspiracy theories while only harboring a slightly sarcastic belief in them. As with any such numbers, it’s hard to be sure who is a hard-core believer and who has only a passing belief. One can certainly hope that they might be lower.
You can read more about the poll here. According to Public Policy Polling, the total respondents were 1,247 all of whom were registered voters. That’s a reasonably good size sample. The questions were also direct and avoided bias. The figures also show the breakdown between Republican and Democratic-registered voters. As one might expect, Republicans tend to be more prone to believing things like Bin Laden is alive, while Democrats are far more likely to think Bush lied about WMD’s.
It’s not surprising that the Kennedy Assassination ranks at the top of the poll. If anything, it’s surprising it is not higher. The Kennedy Assassination has always fascinated me, because, despite being a relatively straight-forward shooting, it spawned the single most widespread and enduring conspiracy theory in the US. There are many reasons for this, including the efforts of those like Oliver Stone and the fact that the events were shocking and the guilt of Lee Harvey Oswald seemed so anti-climactic for such an event.
The Kennedy Assassination is unique in that the conspiracy theories have transcended the normal conspiracy theory subculture and become entirely mainstream. A large number of Americans did not accept the Warren Commission report as soon as it was published in 1964. That number continued to climb after a second investigation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations and with the production of numerous books and documentaries supporting conspiracy theories.
The most dangerous of all these conspiracy theories, however, is likely to be the 20% number for autism being connected to vaccines. This is directly responsible for a number of outbreaks in the US. Indeed, this belief is hardly just American. Fear of vaccines has become a major problem across the industrial world. It goes to show that more effort still needs to be mounted against these harmful myths.