Public opinion on conspiracy theories

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Picture of President Kennedy in the limousine in Dallas, Texas, on Main Street, minutes before the assassination.

 

This AEI Public Opinion Study looks closely at public attitudes about a variety of conspiracy theories. This collection includes subjects such as whether aliens landed at Roswell, whether 9/11 was the work of the US government, whether Princess Diana’s death was an accident, and whether Elvis and Osama bin Laden are still alive. We also look at the persistence of the belief among a segment of the population that President Obama was not born in the United States. We begin with the assassination of Kennedy.

  • Fifty years after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the belief that more than one person was involved in his assassination remains the most widely held conspiracy theory in America. In an April 2013 poll, 59 percent said others were involved.
  • In the few polls we have, a sizable minority of the population believes President Roosevelt knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor in advance and used the attack as an excuse to go to war.
  • Around 20 percent embrace the view that UFOs have landed in the United States at Roswell, New Mexico, and that the government is engaged in a systematic cover-up of this event
  • In a 1976 Harris poll, 60 percent believed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. was the work of a conspiracy. In a 2008 CNN poll, 55 percent endorsed the notion of a conspiracy.
  • In an August 2007 Fox News poll, 31 percent agreed that foul play was involved in Princess Diana's death
  • In a July 2006 Scripps Howard and Ohio University poll, 16 percent said it was likely that the “people in the federal government either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop the attacks because they wanted to United States to go to war in the Middle East.”
  • Around 6 percent believe the moon landing was a hoax
  • Fifteen percent told Fox News that there was a chance that Osama bin Laden is still alive, while 24 percent told CBS News that they had doubts about whether he was killed.

 

Conspiracy theories: What do Americans believe 50 years after the JFK assassination? from American Enterprise Institute on Vimeo.

 

 

 

 

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