The Daily Chart: A Conspiracy So Vast. . . [With Comment by John]

Ever since Richard Hofstadter published his worst book in 1964, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, it has been a sturdy cliche that conservatives and Republicans are more likely to believe conspiracy theories. This is nonsense to anyone with common sense perception (JFK assassination anyone?), but a new study in the journal Political Behavior (“Are Republicans and Conservatives More Likely to Believe Conspiracy Theories?“) takes the usual deep quantitative dive into the matter, and guess what? It’s about 50-50; that is, conspiracy belief seems more a basic human trait than an ideological trait, though there are some ideological patterns to be discerned:

In no instance do we observe systematic evidence of a political asymmetry. Instead, the strength and direction of the relationship between political orientations and conspiricism is dependent on the characteristics of the specific conspiracy beliefs employed by researchers and the socio-political context in which those ideas are considered.

The six authors of the study point out that many of the studies purporting to prove deeper conspiracy belief among conservatives use skewed methodology—in other words, constructing the study through selection bias in such as way as to assure the outcome. Gee—when does that ever happen in social science?

JOHN adds: I would also point out that, while all of the listed conspiracies to which liberals subscribe are absurd (Trump is a Russian asset, OJ was framed, etc), a good share of the “conspiracy theories” which some conservatives believe are actually true: the threat from COVID was exaggerated; the threat of global warming is, if not precisely a hoax, grossly exaggerated as well; “COVID anti-vax” could have merit, depending on what, precisely, the “conspiracy” is; there most certainly is a powerful Deep State. And Jeffrey Epstein might actually have been murdered. There is not really a symmetry between the absurdities that many liberals believe and some, at least, of the “conspiracies” that some conservatives find plausible.

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