Friday, December 4, 2015

Conspiracy Theorists Might Actually Know More About Politics Than You

That's what researchers say, anyway. But maybe it's a huge cover-up.

Three characteristics come together to motivate belief in conspiracy theories. First: The conspiracy theory has to line up with what the person already believes. Conservatives aren’t going to jump on a conspiracy theory that makes other conservatives look bad, and liberals aren’t going to believe a theory that undermines liberal causes.

Second: Whether we're talking about liberals or conservatives, the people who are likely to believe conspiracy theories are less trusting of authority and other people than the people who dismiss the theories. That's about what you'd expect. A deep distrust of society seems to be correlated with a willingness to believe that what’s being reported isn’t the truth, or a tendency to believe that the government is always hiding something.

Third: People who believe in conspiracy theories are typically more knowledgeable about politics than the average American -- at least, that's true of conservative conspiracy theorists. Among liberals, there didn't seem to be any strong connection between how well-informed a person was about politics and how likely that person was to subscribe to conspiracy theories. The researchers weren’t expecting to find such a clear difference between ideologies.

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