Thursday, November 14, 2013

What Makes a Conspiracy Believer?

Who loves a conspiracy theory?

Obviously, those on the left love a good theory that makes those on the right look bad, and vice versa. But who loves a conspiracy theory regardless of which side gets hammered?

I'm in the initial stages of building a paper on this topic, looking also at the role of media use, but here's the one consistency I've found when it comes to believing in conspiracy theories -- economic uncertainty.

Folks who feel uncertain now or in the future about their economic situation are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories from the right-wing crazies (Obama born outside U.S., death panels) and conspiracy theories from the left-wing crazies (government knew in advance of 911, aimed Katrina waters at poor neighborhoods). This stands up even in regression models, which means if you statistically control for the influence of age and education and ideology and party identification and a bunch of other stuff, those who are uncertain about their economic condition are more likely to believe conspiracy theories of the left and the right. This is important, as most people tend to believe one side or the other -- but not both.

This actually fits some theory I'm reading while putting together this paper, that uncertainty can result in more belief in conspiracy theories. Another aspect of that theory is uncertainty pushes people to attend more heavily at the moral aspects of a person or institution and, thus, make them even more likely to believe such hokum. I've not build the moral part into my analysis yet.

There's some damn good potential in this paper both as an academic journal article and in that place known as the real world.


Even better, and logically, a measure of neuroticism (anxiety) acts as an even better predictor in belief in all of the conspiracy theories, regardless of their partisan bent. Interesting.

No comments: