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European Conspiracy Theories

This entry was posted in Conspiracy and Democracy Project, Data on 30 January 2015 by

European Conspiracy Theories

Image source: Flickr:rh2ox
Helped by our friends at YouGov, we are in the process of conducting a poll in the UK, soon to be followed by a number of European countries. We hope the results will shed light on the factors associated with belief in conspiracy theories. What is more important: religion, party system, levels of education, political engagement, or distance from the locus of power?

We will present our findings in March at a conference organised by Joe Uscinski. Watch this space for early results.

Meanwhile, here is a summary of the project, written by our very own Hugo Drochon and Joel Faulkner of YouGov:

The YouGov-Cambridge Programme launches a new study on European attitudes to conspiracy theories, in partnership with the “Conspiracy and Democracy” project at Cambridge University.

We are living in an age of conspiracy theories. Or is that just what they want you to think?

Last year, two academics from Miami University, Joseph Uscinski and Joseph Parent, released a new book called “American Conspiracy Theories”, looking at when and why conspiracy theories have ebbed and flowed over the past 122 years of American politics, and whether the conspiracy theory is really in its heyday, or in decline. In the process, they gathered a unique set of data sources – some 120,000 letters to the New York Times and Chicago Tribune editors between 1890 and 2010; a two-wave survey from before and after the 2012 presidential election; and mountains of online discussion.

They also offered a number of conclusions about the American context: gender is no predictor of the tendency to believe, they say, while levels of education and affluence are; conspiracy theorising has apparently remained quite stable over the last two centuries, and even started to tail off since the 1960s; theorists themselves are more likely to see violence as a possible solution to society’s problems, while power asymmetries are the ultimate drivers behind the rise of conspiracy theories, with those at the bottom of power hierarchies even having a “strategic interest” in blaming those at the top.

Now as part of the YouGov-Cambridge Programme, a team of POLIS and YouGov researchers are setting out to test some of these ‘theories on conspiracy theories’ in the European context, and specifically how demographic profiles, trust in institutions and engagement with politics correlate with favourability towards a range of theories – on such things as the European Union, Islam, the environment, aliens, the illuminati, 9/11 and others.