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Why Do People Believe in Conspiracy Theories? The Role of Informational Cues and Predispositions

Posted: 24 May 2013  

Joseph E. Uscinski

University of Miami

Matthew Atkinson

University of Miami

Date Written: May 22, 2013

Abstract

Conspiratorial beliefs are currently salient in both the media and among scholarly researchers. Why do people believe in conspiracy theories? This note addresses three major explanations of conspiratorial belief: informational cues, political ideology, and predispositions toward conspiratorial views. Using a national survey experiment, we test the effect of an informational cue on belief in a conspiracy theory impugning the media while accounting for partisanship and conspiratorial predispositions. Our results suggest the conditions under which conspiratorial beliefs can flourish, and provide an explanation for individual heterogeneity in the holding of conspiratorial beliefs.

Keywords: conspiracy theories, partisanship, ideology, predispositions

JEL Classification: D83

Suggested Citation

Uscinski, Joseph E. and Atkinson, Matthew, Why Do People Believe in Conspiracy Theories? The Role of Informational Cues and Predispositions (May 22, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2268782 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2268782

Joseph Uscinski (Contact Author)

University of Miami ( email )

Coral Gables, FL 33124
United States

Matthew Atkinson

University of Miami ( email )

Coral Gables, FL 33124
United States

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