Academic Director, YouGov

YouGov-Cambridge research shows the extent to which conspiracy theories are now mainstream rather than marginal in a number of Western countries.

YouGov and Cambridge University recently completed one of the largest ever studies on public belief in conspiracy theories, as part of the University’s “Conspiracy & Democracy project”, based on nationally representative surveys in nine countries, including Britain, the United States, Poland, Italy, France, Germany, Portugal, Sweden and Hungary.

Findings reveal the extent to which conspiracy theories have become mainstream rather than marginal beliefs in a number of Western countries. Large portions across all samples think their government is “hiding the truth” about immigration, while Brexit and Trump voters are more likely to believe in a range of theories – including that “Muslim immigration to this country is part of a bigger plan to make Muslims a majority”, that “man-made global warming is a hoax”, and that “the truth about the harmful effects of vaccines is being deliberately hidden from the public”.

In Hungary, almost half of respondents (48%) believed their government is hiding the truth about immigration. Germany was next highest (35%), with France (32%), Britain (30%) and Sweden (29%) also showing high percentages, as well as a fifth (21%) of those in the United States. Close to half of respondents who voted for Brexit (47%) and Trump (44%) said the same, compared with just 14% of Remain voters and 13% of Clinton voters.


Source: Guardian Graphics (see full post here)


The project also set out to measure levels of belief in a version of the conspiracy theory known as ‘the great replacement’ - the idea that Muslim immigration is part of a bigger demographic conspiracy to take over the West. Some 41% of Trump voters and 31% of Brexit voters said it was true that “Muslim immigration to this country is part of a bigger plan to make Muslims a majority”, compared with 3% of Clinton voters and 6% of Remain voters.

Similarly, both Trump and Brexit voters were more likely to believe that man-made global warming is a hoax, that vaccines are harmful, and that a group of people “secretly control events and rule the world together”.

Results further show that the idea of climate change hoax is more popular on the political right, while scepticism about vaccines is less determined by ideological affiliation.

Belief that “the truth about the harmful effects of vaccines is being deliberately hidden from the public” ranged from lows of 10% in Britain to a notable quarter of the sample (26%) in France.     

Belief that a secret cabal “control events and rule the world together” varies significantly between countries such as Portugal (42%) and Sweden (12%).

The same research assessed levels of “conspiracy scepticism” by looking at those who refuted every conspiratorial view in the study. Sweden had the highest levels of overall conspiracy scepticism, with 48% rejecting every theory put to them. Britain expressed a relatively strong 40% rejection of all theories. Hungary was the least sceptical, with just 15% of respondents who did not believe in any of the conspiracy theories.   

Half of both Remain and Clinton voters were conspiracy sceptics, while 29% of Brexit voters and just 16% of Trump voters rejected all conspiracy theories. 


Methodology: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample sizes were: Italy=1012; Portugal=1003; Poland=1016; France=1019; United States=1223; Sweden=1009; Germany=2065; Hungary=1005; GB=2171. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13-31 August 2018. The survey was carried out online. For each country sample, figures have been weighted and are representative of the adult population aged 18+.

Image: Alamy

See results:

YGC Conspiracy Theories (all countries)

YGC Conspiracy Theories (GB)

YGC Conspiracy Theories (United States)

YGC Conspiracy Theories (Hungary)

YGC Conspiracy Theories (Germany)

YGC Conspiracy Theories (Sweden)

YGC Conspiracy Theories (France)

YGC Conspiracy Theories (Poland)

YGC Conspiracy Theories (Portugal)

YGC Conspiracy Theories (Italy)

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