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Are All ‘Birthers’ Conspiracy Theorists? On the Relationship Between Conspiratorial Thinking and Political Orientations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 July 2018

Abstract

While research on conspiracy theories and those who believe them has recently undergone a renaissance, there still exists a great deal of uncertainty about the measurement of conspiratorial beliefs and orientations, and the consequences of a conspiratorial mindset for expressly political attitudes and behaviors. We first demonstrate, using data from the 2012 American National Election Study, that beliefs in a variety of specific conspiracy theories are simultaneously, but differentially, the product of both a general tendency toward conspiratorial thinking and left/right political orientations. Next, we employ unique data including a general measure of conspiratorial thinking to explore the predictors of specific conspiracy beliefs. We find that partisan and ideological self-identifications are more important than any other variable in predicting ‘birther’ beliefs, while conspiratorial thinking is most important in predicting conspiracy beliefs about the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018

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Footnotes

*

Department of Political Science, University of Louisville (E-mail: amende01@louisville.edu); Department of Political Sciences, Stetson University (email: sssmallpa@stetson.edu); Department of Political Science, University of Connecticut (email: robert.lupton@uconn.edu). We thank the participants on the conspiracy panel at the 2016 Annual Meetings of the American Political Science Association for their helpful suggestions, as well as the anonymous reviewers who provided thoughtful comments about the manuscript. Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at https://dx.doi.org/10.7910/DVN/JVBAWN, and online appendices att https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123417000837.

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