Friday, April 12, 2013

Conspiring against you: Public opinion, conspiracy theories, and conspiracy theorists

Public Policy Polling just concluded a poll on conspiracy theories.  I was really excited about it, obviously. But we'll look at the numbers of the poll to see if there's anything interesting or potentially useful.

Public Policy Polling asked 20 total questions that they deemed were about conspiracy theories.  A couple of them are not quite what I would consider a conspiracy theory, at least as a pejorative.  But to save time and not to bore you, I'll be looking at 10 of their questions.  I'll put the question first and in parantheses, I'll put what I'll call the question for the rest of the post.

1. Do you believe global warming is a hoax? (global warming conspiracy)
2. Do you believe a UFO crashed at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 and the US government covered it up, or not? (Roswell conspiracy)
3. Do you believe that a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order, or not? (New World Order conspiracy)
4. Do you believe there is a link between childhood vaccines and autism, or not? (autism conspiracy)
5. Do you believe President Barack Obama is the anti-Christ or not? (anti-Christ conspiracy)
6. Do you believe that the Bush administration intentionally misled the public about the possibility of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to promote the Iraq war or not? (WMD conspiracy)
7. Do you believe that shape-shifting reptilian people control our world by taking on human form and gaining poliltical power to manipulate our societies, or not? (Lizard people conspiracy)
8. Do you believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing President Kennedy, or was there a larger conspiracy at work? (JFK Conspiracy)
9. Do you believe the media or the government adds secret mind-controlling technology to television broadcast signals, or not? (TV conspiracy)
10. Do you believe the United States government knowingly allowed the attacks on September 11, 2001 to happen, or not? (9-11 conspiracy)

Global warming conspiracy: 37% believe it is a hoax while 51% think it is not.  This is not that interesting to look at, but I'm a little shocked that ONLY 37% believe it is a hoax.  Take a look at my Facebook feed sometime, you'll assume it's a lot higher.  It's not interesting because it's largely along party lines.  61% of Mitt Romney supporters think it's a hoax while only 12% of Barack Obama supporters think it is.  Or basically as you go from left to right on the political spectrum, it increases (very liberal, somewhat liberal, moderate, somewhat conservative, very conservative) it goes 14% to 12% to 22% to 52% to 71% believing it's a hoax, respectively.  Men tend to believe a little more than women that global warming is a hoax (39-35%) but not so much that it's really significant.  11% of Democrats, 58% of Republicans, and 41% of independents believe it is a hoax.  Whites (41%) tend to believe that it is a hoax more than other races, followed by Hispanics (34%), Other (32%), and African-Americans (19%).  The age group that most believes it's a hoax are 30-45 year olds (41%) and 65+ (40%) followed by 46-65 year olds (36%) and 18-29 year olds (31%).
What does your conspiracy theorist look like? Probably a white male, who considers himself very conservative and Republican, aged 30-45 who voted for Mitt Romney. 

Roswell conspiracy: 21% believe in the conspiracy and 47% do not.  A high amount, about a third (32%) are not sure.  This one is a bit more interesting, hopefully.  Mitt Romney supporters believe the conspiracy the most (27%) followed by someone else/don't remember (22%) and Barack Obama (16%).  This one is spread very evenly across the political spectrum, from left-to-right 20, 21, 23, 19, 22.  50% of moderates do not believe the conspiracy.  Men are more likely to believe in the Roswell crash (24%) than women (19%).  Men are also more sure of an answer than women.  Over a third of women (35%) are not sure while 29% of men are not sure.  Republicans (27%) believe in the Roswell crash more than Democrats (18%) or Independents.  Side note: Public Policy Polling asked if people believed aliens exist, 27% of Democrats believe they do, 28% of Republicans believe they do, and 32% of Independents think they do.  What does that tell us with regards to the Roswell conspiracy?  Republicans trust government less than others, I guess. Oh well. Democrats (36%) are less sure than Republicans (31%) and Independents (29%) of their answer.  Other races (35%) believe in the Roswell conspiracy more than Hispanics (27%), Whites (22%), and African-Americans (6%).  Side note #2: 22% of Hispanics and African-Americans believe aliens exist.  I don't think Hispanics think that the UFO was an alien.  Or maybe they're confused. Maybe they're trolling Public Policy Polling. I don't know.  Back to the post, 46% of African-Americans are not sure of the Roswell conspiracy.  The age groups stay about the same.  The age groups are 18-29, 30-45, 46 to 65, and 65+, they are (in order) 22%, 21%, 23%, 19%.  Interestingly, 18-29 year olds and 65+ are both fairly unsure of their answers 41% of 18-29 year olds and 42% of seniors.  But I understand, those are confusing times.
What does your conspiracy theorist look like? This one doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  Most likely, they're male  Mitt Romney supporters who consider themselves a Republican, who are not white, black, or hispanic and is 46-65 years old.  I would assume Asian or something else.  Now that sounds racist. Let's move on.

New World Order Conspiracy: I'm actually excited to go through this one with you.  28% of voters believe in the New World Order while 46% do not.  They most likely voted for a third party or they don't remember (40%) or Mitt Romney (38%).  Only 16% of Barack Obama supporters believe in the New World Order Conspiracy.  61% do not believe in it.  This is one that completely increases across the political spectrum, going 12%, 20%, 23%, 33%, 45%.  But more moderates (56%) do not believe in it than somewhat liberals (51%).  Men (35%) are more likely than women (21%) to believe the New World Order conspiracy.  Side note #3: Women are less sure of their answer than men for every single question in the poll.  Independents/other parties (35%) are slightly more likely than Republicans (34%) to believe in the New World Order Conspiracy.  Democrats (15%) are way behind.  Independents/other parties are way more in their answers (do/don't) than Democrats or Republicans.  Other races (36%) are a bit more likely than whites (32%) and way more likely than African-Americans (21%) and Hispanics (10%) to believe in this conspiracy. As we go across the ages, we have 29%, 25%, 30%, and 28%.  So again, it's basically the same thing across the board, but oh well.
What does the conspiracy theorist look like? Well, the conspiracy theorist is most likely a male, very conservative voter who either voted for Mitt Romney or an Independent/3rd party candidate is between 46-65 and is not white/black/hispanic.

Autism conspiracy: 20% of voters believe this conspiracy theory (which is way too high and is probably the reason for a measles outbreak but I digress. This conspiracy theory bothers me more than the rest, really) and 46% of voters do not.  This one has the highest not sure answer out of ALL of the questions.  Damnit Jim Carrey and others! Well, Mitt Romney supporters (22%) are slightly more likely than Barack Obama supporters (19%) to believe there is a link while only 12% of voters who voted for someone else believe it.  This one is interesting on the political spectrum, 12%, 18%, 23%, 19%, 22%.  As you move right, it slightly increases but there's not a significant difference between 22% and 18% in this case.  But moderates are most likely to believe it, albeit ever so slightly.  Men and women believe there is a link at the exact same rate (20%) but men (50%) believe there is not a link more than women (42%).  Republicans (26%)  believe there is a link more than Independents (18%) and Democrats (16%).  Other races (31%), again, believe in this conspiracy theory more than Whites (20%), African-Americans (18%), and Hispanics (16%).  Side note #4: People sometimes talk about how African-Americans don't trust doctors and you can see it in this poll. While only 18% believe there is a link, 52% are not sure.  No other race has more than 40%, Hispanics are at 38%, Whites at 31%, and Other 25%.  I'd imagine if someone asked do you trust doctors, it would reflect what is found with this question.  This one across the ages, goes 22%, 23%, 19%, 18% .  It's close the whole way across but what's interesting is that seniors aren't the ones believing this link.
What does the conspiracy theorist look like? It's more than likely a woman, who voted for Mitt Romney, considers herself a moderate Republican is between 30-45 and is non-white/black/hispanic.

Anti-Christ Conspiracy: Well, I'd imagine that this one will be fairly obvious who the conspiracy theorist would be. 13% of voters think Barack Obama is the anti-Christ while 73% do not.  15% are not sure.  Which is just what the anti-Christ wants.  Mitt Romney supporters (no shit) think he is the anti-Christ more than Barack Obama or Someone else/don't remember supporters (22% to 5% to 6%).  Side note #5: I want to meet those who voted for Barack Obama and actually think he's the anti-Christ. The political spectrum is what you'd expect, increasing as it goes across, 8%, 9%, 9%, 17%, 21%.  Men (16%) are more likely than women (10%) to think this.  Republicans (20%) are more likely than Independents/Others (13%) and Democrats (6%) to think he is the anti-Christ.  Whites (15%) think he's the anti-Christ more than African-Americans (9%), Hispanics (9%), and other races (8%).  As we go across the ages, we see 19%, 11%, 11%, 17%.  I was surprised to see that the 18-29 year olds would be most likely to believe it, even if there's no real difference between 19% and 17%.  Either 18-29 year olds are trolling or I guess they actually believe Obama is the anti-Christ.  That statement is hard to make without sounding sarcastic.
What does the conspiracy theorist look like? A white male aged 18-29 who considers himself very conservative and voted for Mitt Romney.

WMD Conspiracy: Finally a conspiracy theory that won't assume I'm biasing these results to make Republicans look bad.  Or whatever.  This one is kind of split.  44% believe he misled the public, 45% do not.  This one cuts along party lines 69% of Barack Obama supporters believe it, 60% of those who voted for a 3rd party or don't remember believe it, while only 18% of Mitt Romney supporters believe it.  This one completely declines as we move across the political spectrum, 79%, 71%, 53%, 23%, 18%.  So if you ask someone this question, you might be able to determine where they fall politically.  At least as a general barometer.  Women (46%) more than men (42%) believe Bush misled about WMD's.  Not surprisingly, more Democrats (72%) believe he misled than any other party, Independents (48%) and Republicans (13%).  Other races (55%) believe he misled, followed by African Americans (54%), Hispanics (45%), Whites (41%).  If you ask to define yourself on a political spectrum, I think it's fairly similar.  18 to 29 year olds (48%) believe Bush misled, followed by 46-65 year olds (47%), 65+ (41%), and 30-45 year olds ( 35%). 
What does the conspiracy theorist look like? It would be a female, who considers herself very liberal, voted for Barack Obama, aged 18-29 and is non-white/black/hispanic.

Lizard people conspiracy: I had never heard of this conspiracy until a few months or maybe weeks ago.  4% of voter believe in it while 88% do not.  Supporters of 3rd party candidates/don't remember were more likely to believe in this conspiracy (18%) than Mitt Romney supporters (5%) and Barack Obama (2%).  Presumably because both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are lizard people.  The two edges of the spectrum are the only ones who believe in it, it looks like, from left-to-right, 10%, 0%, 3%, 3%, 11%.  Men (5%) are ever so slightly more likely than women (4%) to believe in lizard people.  Women (11%) are not completely sure one way or another, though.  Independents/other parties are fractionally more likely to believe this conspiracy (6%) than Republicans (5%) or Democrats (3%).  Other races (21%) are more likely than any other race to believe in lizard people, followed by Hispanics (9%) and Whites (3%).  0% of African-Americans believe in lizard people, although 19% are not sure, almost double anyone else's not sure tally.  As we go across the ages, it declines.  13%, 6%, 3%, 1%.  So, there's that.  Lizard people are scary.
What does the conspiracy theorist look like? A male, either very conservative or very liberal who voted for a 3rd party candidate, registered independent or 3rd party, and is non-white/black/hispanic.

JFK conspiracy: 25% believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone while 51% believe there is a larger conspiracy at work.  I am mildly surprised it is only 51% who believe there is a larger conspiracy at work.  Mitt Romney supporters are more likely to believe there is a larger conspiracy (54%) than those who voted for someone else or can't remember (48%) or Barack Obama (47%).  As we move to the political spectrum, it's all over the place.  42%, 63%, 44%, 45%, 66%.  So the very conservative appear to believe there is a larger conspiracy at work.  I think they just don't trust the government, but oh well.  More men (53%) than women (48%) believe (random synonymic phrase for there's a larger conspiracy at work).  Republicans (55%) believe more than Democrats (52%) and Independents/other parties (44%) this conspiracy theory.  African-Americans are the most likely race to believe this conspiracy theory (66%) followed by other races (59%), Hispanics (51%), and Whites (48%).  Those aged 46-65 (56%) believe the conspiracy the most, followed by 65+ and  30-45 year olds at 53% a piece.  Very surprising is that only 26% of 18-29 year olds believe this conspiracy theory.
What does the conspiracy theorist look like? The theorist most likely is an African-American male aged 46-65, who views himself as very conservative, is registered as a Republican and voted for Mitt Romney.  I can feel my Black American Culture teacher judging me for typing that last part.

TV conspiracy: 15% believe it, 70% do not.  18% of Mitt Romney supporters and those who voted for 3rd party/don't remember believe it while 12% of Barack Obama supporters believe it.  The political spectrum goes 14%, 15%, 16%, 9%, 23%.  Men and women (15% each) believe that they do.  Women are less sure (22% compared to 9%) so I'll say they're more likely to believe it.  Republicans (17%) are slightly more likely than Democrats (15%) and Independents/3rd Party (13%) to believe it.  Other races believe it the most (33%!) while Hispanics (18%), Whites (14%), and African-Americans (7%) trail.  The ages are basically the same, 17%, 17%, 13%, 16%. 
What does the conspiracy theorist look like? The theorist is a female who considers herself a very conservative Republican who either voted for Mitt Romney or a 3rd party/doesn't remember.  She's aged 18-45 and is non-white/black/hispanic.

9-11 conspiracy: Finally.  11% believe it.  78% do not.  3rd party/don't remember (17%) got most of the votes, followed by Barack Obama (13%) and Mitt Romney (8%).  The political spectrum is weird looking, it goes 14%, 15%,  8%, 11%, 11%.  Men (11%) are ever so slightly more than women (10%) to believe it.  Democrats (14%) are more likely than Independents/Other parties (12%) or Republicans (8%) to believe it.  Other races (16%) are the most likely to believe it followed by Hispanics (14%), Whites (10%), and African-Americans (8%) to believe it.  Basically it decreases as we go across the ages, 18%, 10%, 11%, 7%.  Younger people are more likely to believe it, who would have thunk it?
What does the conspiracy theorist look like? The conspiracy theorist is more than likely a male aged 18-29, who is non-white/hispanic/black, considers himself slightly liberal is a Democrat and voted for a 3rd party or doesn't remember who he voted for. 

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