Do I Think BLS Data are BS? The Consequences of Conspiracy Theories

Do I Think BLS Data are BS? The Consequences of Conspiracy Theories While the willingness of people to believe unfounded and conspiratorial explanations of events is fascinating and troubling, few have addressed the broader impacts of the dissemination of conspiracy claims. We use survey experiments to assess whether realistic exposure to a conspiracy claim affects conspiracy beliefs and trust in government. These experiments yield interesting and potentially surprising results. We discover that respondents who are asked whether they believe in a conspiracy claim after reading a specific allegation actually report lower beliefs than those not exposed to the specific claim. Turning to trust in government, we find that exposure to a conspiracy claim has a potent negative effect on trust in government services and institutions including those unconnected to the allegations. Moreover, and consistent with our belief experiment, we find that first asking whether people believe in the conspiracy mitigates the negative trust effects. Combining these findings suggests that conspiracy exposure increases conspiracy beliefs and reduces trust, but that asking about beliefs prompts additional thinking about the claims which softens and/or reverses the exposure’s effect on beliefs and trust. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Political Behavior Springer Journals

Do I Think BLS Data are BS? The Consequences of Conspiracy Theories

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Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright © 2014 by Springer Science+Business Media New York
Subject
Social Sciences, general; Political Science, general; Sociology, general
ISSN
0190-9320
eISSN
1573-6687
D.O.I.
10.1007/s11109-014-9287-z
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

While the willingness of people to believe unfounded and conspiratorial explanations of events is fascinating and troubling, few have addressed the broader impacts of the dissemination of conspiracy claims. We use survey experiments to assess whether realistic exposure to a conspiracy claim affects conspiracy beliefs and trust in government. These experiments yield interesting and potentially surprising results. We discover that respondents who are asked whether they believe in a conspiracy claim after reading a specific allegation actually report lower beliefs than those not exposed to the specific claim. Turning to trust in government, we find that exposure to a conspiracy claim has a potent negative effect on trust in government services and institutions including those unconnected to the allegations. Moreover, and consistent with our belief experiment, we find that first asking whether people believe in the conspiracy mitigates the negative trust effects. Combining these findings suggests that conspiracy exposure increases conspiracy beliefs and reduces trust, but that asking about beliefs prompts additional thinking about the claims which softens and/or reverses the exposure’s effect on beliefs and trust.

Journal

Political BehaviorSpringer Journals

Published: Sep 4, 2014

References

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