We ask: Conspiracy theories

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
July 04, 2012, 10:25 AM GMT+0

24% Britons say Princess Diana assassinated; 12% say moon landing fake; 1% says Elvis still alive

From the death of Elvis Presley to the 1969 Apollo Moon landing, the British public has revealed which common conspiracy theories they genuinely believe in.

Our poll shows almost a quarter of Britons believe that the late Princess Diana was assassinated rather than dying in a car accident, and almost one fifth do not believe Lee Harvey Oswald was responsible for the assassination of JFK. Meanwhile, very few Britons believe ‘the king of rock'n'roll' – Elvis Presley ‒ is still alive.

  • While 62% think Princess Diana died in an accident, 24% think she was assassinated
  • 48% think Lee Harvey Oswald did assassinate John F Kennedy, while 17% disagree, thinking that someone else was responsible for the death of President Kennedy
  • 75% think the 1969 Apollo Moon Landing did happen while 12% think it did not
  • 85% think playwright William Shakespeare was a real person, while 6% think Shakespeare was an alias for a group of writers
  • 66% say that man has not made contact with extra-terrestrial beings (aliens), but 5% say that man has made contact with aliens
  • 95% think Elvis Presley is dead while 1% reckon the singer is still alive

Conspiracy theories exist for most major events of the last millennium, often leading to grand followings and in-depth analysis of the 'proof'. Some theories come as potentially significant revelations, while others look paranoid and difficult to believe – but many are nonetheless as persistent as they are unlikely.

Conspiracy or truth?

In 2008, The Telegraph compiled a list of the thirty greatest conspiracy theories ever thought up, including that global warming is a hoax, that Beatles band member Paul McCartney died in 1996 and was replaced with a look-and-soundalike, and that William Shakespeare was someone else or a pseudonym for a group of writers.

But while many theories appear spurious at best, some have actually been proven true.

Some 'conspiracies' initially viewed with scepticism, or covered up, but which were later shown to be credible include the 1890 anti-Semitic 'Dreyfus Affair' (in which a French Jewish officer was wrongly convicted of passing French secrets to the German Embassy in Paris due to an intentional cover-up of the more-likely culprit, General Esterhazy), the Manhattan Project (a hidden scheme which oversaw the development of the nuclear bomb), and 'Watergate' scandal (in which a 1972 break-in to the Watergate office complex, as well as evidence of wiretapping, were covered up by the Nixon administration, later leading to the President's resignation in 1974).

See the survey details and full results here