Trust Nobody: How Conspiracy Theories Can Distort Political Accountability

41 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2020 Last revised: 6 May 2020

See all articles by Giovanna Maria Invernizzi

Giovanna Maria Invernizzi

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

Ahmed Ezzeldin Mohamed

Columbia University, Department of Political Science

Date Written: December 20, 2019

Abstract

Does the spread of conspiracy theories threaten democratic accountability? This paper argues that conspiracy theories increase mistrust of political institutions and decrease voters’ reliance on the informational environment. This can hinder electoral accountability by helping bad politicians evade punishment, while reducing the political rewards of good performance in office. Results from an online experiment among US subjects show that exposure to conspiracy theories decreases (i) subjects’ trust in political institutions that are unrelated to the conspiratorial narrative, (ii) trust in information providers, and (iii) subjects’ certainty about new information. We discuss the negative implications of our findings for political accountability.

Keywords: Accountability, Scandals, Conspiracy Theories, Trust

Suggested Citation

Invernizzi, Giovanna Maria and Mohamed, Ahmed Ezzeldin, Trust Nobody: How Conspiracy Theories Can Distort Political Accountability (December 20, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3507190 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3507190

Giovanna Maria Invernizzi (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

New York, NY
United States

Ahmed Ezzeldin Mohamed

Columbia University, Department of Political Science ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

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