Thursday, February 19, 2015

Washington Post: 50% Of Americans Believe In 
Conspiracy Theory; Most Popular Include Birther

Shhh. Don't tell anybody, but we're surrounded by conspiracy theorists, and we're not all crazy!

Professor John Sides @ WaPo:

Fifty percent of Americans believe in some conspiracy theory. Here’s why. 
In a newly published article, “Conspiracy Theories and the Paranoid Style(s) of American Politics,” the political scientists Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood present some startling findings about how prevalent conspiracy theories are, and what encourages people to believe them. Oliver kindly answered some of my questions via e-mail. 
What did you find? Was belief in conspiracy theories relatively rare? 
We find that in any given year, about half the public generally endorses at least one conspiracy theory. Some of the most popular include the “birther” conspiracy about Obama (endorsed by about 25 percent), the “truther” conspiracy about 9/11 (endorsed by about 19 percent), the theory that the FDA is deliberately withholding natural cures for cancer (endorsed by 40 percent), and the theory that the Fed intentionally orchestrated the 2008 recession (endorsed by 19 percent). [...] Continued @ Washington comPost.

They appear to be citing a poll that was conducted back in 2010. FIVE years ago!

Excerpt via the interviewees report cited above first published in 2014:

Conspiracy Theories and the Paranoid Style(s) of Mass Opinion 
In both the popular media and scholarly community, it is quite common to disparage conspiracy theories as an expression of either deluded and dangerous cranks (e.g., Sunstein and Vermeule 2009), right-wing zealots (e.g., Barreto et al. 2011), or the grossly misinformed (Berinsky 2011). Nationally representative survey data provide a much more complex picture. Although we do not have data on the active propagators of conspiracy theories, we do see that both the willingness to agree with conspiracy theories or see them as valid explanations for political phenomena are quite commonplace in the American public. Not only does half of the American population agree with at least one conspiracy from a short list of conspiracy theories offered, but also large portions of the population exhibit a strong dispositional inclination toward believing that unseen, intentional forces exist and that history is driven by a Manichean struggle between good and evil, particularly in the high proportion of Americans who believe we are living in biblical “end times.” Interestingly, conspiracism does not seem to be an expression of political ignorance. With the exception of those adherents of ideological conspiracy theories such as Birthers or Truthers, respondents who endorse conspiracy theories are not less informed about basic political facts than average citizens. Far from being an aberrant expression of some political extreme or a product of gross misinformation, a conspiratorial view of politics is a widespread tendency across the entire ideological spectrum. 
The Obama Birther conspiracy narrative began during the Democratic primary in the spring of 2008 with anonymous email chains. These were picked up by online commentators during the general election. However, in the fall of 2008, only 60% of Americans reported hearing about this conspiracy and only 10% agreed with it. By April 2010, a Harris poll reported that over 80% of respondents had heard of this theory and that roughly a quarter of them (largely Republicans or ideological conservatives) believed that Obama had not really been born in the United States(Harris Polls 2010). [...] Full analysis @ Wiley Online Library.

According to 2015 poll, 47% of the American people still are not sure if Obama is even a U.S. citizen...

It is not a theory that Obama is a using a Social Security Number reserved for Connecticut applicants...

And, it is not a theory that Obama listed himself as being born in Kenya for sixteen years...


What U.S. Pres in History Has Multiple Sources 
in Foreign Country Saying He Was Born There?