In what is being called the biggest cross-national research that has ever been conducted on conspiracy theories, a new survey study suggests that those who support Donald Trump and Brexit are also much more likely to believe in conspiracy theories.
According to the University of Cambridge, out of those who were surveyed in areas like the U.K. and France, a hefty one-third of these are convinced that governments are actively “hiding the truth” about many things, not the least of which is immigration. The survey also found that those who find Trump and Brexit the most appealing are also more likely to disregard scientific facts and imagine dramatic plots, including the belief that Muslim migrants are planning to take over their respective countries.
The new conspiracy theory research is part of the Conspiracy & Democracy project at the University of Cambridge and utilizes surveys taken at the YouGov-Cambridge center. The study uses data taken in nine different countries, including the United States, Britain, Italy, France, Poland, German, Sweden, Portugal, and Hungary.
Project researcher Dr. Hugo Leal believes that conspiracy theories revolving around immigration have been swiftly “gaining ground” since 2015, when the huge refugee crisis hit the headlines and became big news around the world. Dr. Leal explained that a large number of people in Britain and the United States are fairly certain that their governments are concealing the truth about immigration.
“The conspiratorial perception that governments are deliberately hiding the truth about levels of migration appears to be backed by a considerable portion of the population across much of Europe and the United States.”
In fact, out of those surveyed, nearly half of those who voted for Donald Trump (44 percent) and Brexit (47 percent) think their government is lying to them about immigration policies, which is in marked contrast to those who voted for Hillary Clinton (12 percent) or to remain in Europe (14 percent).
Cambridge researchers were also very interested in learning more about how those surveyed responded to what is known as the “great replacement,” which is the idea that Muslims immigrating to the United States and Europe are really moving there as part of a grand scheme to take over so that Muslims form the largest part of the population of these countries, almost as a sort of payback for the Crusades.
“Originally formulated in French far-right circles, the widespread belief in a supposedly outlandish nativist conspiracy theory known as the ‘great replacement’ is an important marker and predictor of the Trump and Brexit votes,” according to Dr. Leal.
The number of those surveyed who believed in the “great replacement” is as might be expected, with 41 percent of Trump voters buying into this conspiracy theory along with 31 percent of Brexit voters. However, only 3 percent of Clinton supporters and 6 percent of Remain supporters believed in this theory.
Cambridge researchers also decided to look into other conspiracy theories, including the idea that climate change is nothing but a hoax, with no scientific evidence to back it up. Both Brexit and Trump supporters, as it turned out, were much more likely to disbelieve in climate change, and Dr. Leal noted, “We found the existence of a conspiratorial worldview linking both electorates.”
Another popular conspiracy theory is the idea that there is a small and secret group of elites who actively “control events and rule the world together.” Forty-two percent of those surveyed in Portugal were partial to this idea, while just 12 percent of those in Sweden believed this. Dr. Hugo Drochon believes this is particularly important and shows “public policy implications, because there are structural issues at play here too.”
“More unequal countries with a lower quality of democracy tend to display higher levels of belief in the world cabal, which suggests that conspiracy beliefs can also be addressed at a more macro level.”
Dr. Leal was quick to point out that conspiracy theories are now no longer in the confines of small groups of people and have greatly expanded over the years, almost becoming mainstream.
“A telling takeaway of the study is that conspiracy theories are, nowadays, mainstream rather than marginal beliefs. These findings provide important clues to understanding the popularity of populist and nationalist parties contesting elections across much of the western world.”
The survey which shows that Trump and Brexit supporters are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories was conducted between August 13 to August 23, 2018, and was given to 11,523 adults.