In America we are all endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of conspiracy theory. In America we are all free. A new study, from Fairleigh Dickinson University, has found 63 percent of registered voters in the U.S. believe at least one political conspiracy theory. That is three in five people.
Three members of the Jackson 5 are 9/11 truthers. Three members of 'N Sync are birthers. Sixty-nine people in the New York Philharmonic think there was voter fraud in Ohio in 2004.
The study asked participants about their belief in four popular conspiracy theories: that President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks before they happened, that President Obama is hiding important information about his childhood, that supporters of President Bush commit voter fraud to win Ohio in 2004 and that supporters of President Obama commit voter fraud to win the election in 2012. Answers are then organized by partisan-identification, race, and knowledge of current events.
The results are fascinating on many levels. For one, Republicans (75 percent) are more likely than Democrats (56 percent) to buy into at least one conspiracy theory. The most popular conspiracy is, of course, birtherism. In all, 36 percent of Americans buy into the theory, with a highly partisan split: 14 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans. Side note: America must have thought Mitt Romney was truly incompetent, if nearly four in ten Americans thinks President Obama is lying about being born in America, yet he was still re-elected.
One would think that the more educated or knowledgeable a person is, the less likely he/she is to believe in one of these crackpot theories. And, partially, you're right. The more politically-knowledgeable Democrats and independents are, the less likely they are to believe in (or admit to believing in) a conspiracy theory. But Republicans are more likely to believe in a conspiracy theory, the more politically informed they are. There is no nice way to put this, but that is fucking crazy.
"There are several possible explanations for this," said Farleigh Dickinson professor Dan Cassino, who worked as an analyst on the poll. "It could be that more conspiracy-minded Republicans seek out more information, or that the information some Republicans seek out just tends to reinforce these myths."
The study also found that African-Americans are more likely to believe in a conspiracy theory than whites (the study did not include any other racial groups). In fact, 75 percent of African-Americans believe one of the four conspiracy theories. That's compared to 62 percent of whites (which is still a whole fucking lot of people). Cassino also explained this, saying groups who feel "distanced from the political process are more likely to believe that sinister forces are at work."
Think about this the next time you're in public. Thirty-six percent of people at the grocery store think Obama was born in Kenya. Twenty-five percent of your co-workers think Bush was complicit in the attacks on 9/11.
You can look at the full results here:
[Image by Hollingsworth/Flickr]