Trust Nobody: How Voters React To Conspiracy Theories

43 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2020 Last revised: 25 Jun 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

With the advent of social media, conspiracy theories became integrated into salient political debates, yet the scope of their implications on citizens' political behavior remains unclear. Using an online experiment among US subjects, we show that conspiracy theories decrease voters' trust in political institutions, such as mainstream parties and courts, as well as information providers. Subjects were exposed to conspiracy theories that are completely unrelated to American domestic politics, which further underscores the danger of such narratives. Results, however, suggest that voters do not weigh unrelated conspiracies in their evaluation of politicians' performance. Overall, our findings illustrate that an informational environment permeated by conspiracy theories could impede the functioning of democracy by eroding trust in its institutions, but that voters' capacity to keep politicians accountable is resilient to unrelated information.

Keywords: Accountability, Scandals, Conspiracy Theories, Trust

Suggested Citation

Invernizzi, Giovanna Maria and Mohamed, Ahmed Ezzeldin, Trust Nobody: How Voters React To Conspiracy Theories (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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