We’re suckers for conspiracy theories – and it’s a sign of a deep social malaise

November 01, 2017, 1:05 PM GMT+0

(This is an abstract - read the full version here)

Last Thursday Donald Trump authorised the release of almost 3,000 previously unseen documents relating to JFK’s assassination in 1963. What did we learn? In truth, not much.

But this was America’s greatest conspiracy theorist sharing a moment with the event that has given rise to America’s greatest conspiracy theories. Trump, remember, launched his political career with the so-called “birther” movement, which alleged that Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii but in Kenya, and therefore was not eligible for office (and was also secretly a Muslim).

But conspiracy theories are not just an American phenomenon. Two studies – the first of their kind – conducted by YouGov in collaboration with the University of Cambridge Conspiracy and Democracy project, one in February 2015 and the other in March 2016, show that Brits are just as likely to believe in conspiracy theories as Americans. While 19% of Americans believe that 9/11 was an inside job, for example, we found that 11% of Brits thought it too – and 18% of British people believe that climate change is a hoax, compared to 13% in the US.

In fact, over half the population on either side of the Atlantic believes in at least one conspiracy theory....

Read the full version here