Data Journalist

One in four think the threat of climate change is exaggerated and one in six believe the moon landings were staged, reveals YouGov study on conspiracy theories

When we hear about ‘anti-vaxxers’ or ‘flat earthers’ in the press, the story generally focuses on the extremely devout believers: the ones organising conferences or managing YouTube accounts with millions of viewers.

But how many people out there quietly believe the most common conspiracy theories? A YouGov RealTime survey for the Yahoo / YouGov podcast ‘Britain Is A Nation Of’ asked Britons about everything from climate change to creationism.

“The threat of climate change is over-exaggerated’

The vast majority of people (70%) think that warnings on climate change from scientists are appropriate. But a considerable number – who tend to be older – believe these warnings are exaggerated.

One in eleven (9%) 18 to 24 year olds think they’re over-exaggerated, compared to a third (32%) of those aged 55 and above.

‘Vaccines have harmful effects which are not being fully disclosed to the public”

One in five Britons (20%) think it’s probably or definitely true that vaccinations have harmful effects which are not being fully disclosed, despite publicly available scientific research showing that they’re safe.

One in twenty (5%) of those aged 25 to 44 believe it’s definitely true, but this figure falls significantly to just one in a hundred among 18 to 24 year olds.

Similarly, younger respondents are twice as likely as older respondents to say this statement is 'definitely false' - two thirds (59%) of 18 to 24 year olds think so compared to a third (34%) of those aged 55 and above.

“The moon landing was staged”

One in six Britons (16%) say the moon landing was ‘probably’ (12%) or definitely (4%) staged.

Interestingly, older respondents are considerably more likely to say this statement is definitely false than younger respondents (62% of those aged 55 or older, 48% of 45 to 54 year olds and 50% of 18 to 24 year olds).

This is the only theory for which this age trend is the case - in all the others we asked about the reverse was true, and younger people were less likely to believe the conspiracy theories.

“The Earth is flat”

The theory that the Earth is flat rather than round was the least popular on the survey: just 3% of Britons say it’s ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ true. Just over nine out of ten (93%) believe it’s false, while 4% claim that they don’t know.

“The universe was created by God in seven days and evolution was just part of His creation plan”

One in seven Britons (14%) think it’s probably or definitely the case that the universe was created by God in seven days, and evolution was just part of his creation plan.

Belief in this theory varies only marginally across age groups, with seven in ten (70%) Britons overall saying this is definitely false. Interestingly, men are more likely than women to think so (77% versus 65%).

Photo: Getty

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