Sixty percent of Brits believe at least one conspiracy theory about how their country is governed, according to a new piece of joint research by Cambridge University and YouGov.
Moreover, according to the research's authors, people who supported leaving the EU in the Brexit referendum were more likely to believe so-called ‘conspiracy theories' than those who voted to remain in the bloc. The report finds that 71% of leave voters believe at least one such theory compared to 49% among the remain camp.
The research defines a conspiracy theory in a notably broad fashion as, "a theory that some actors have conspired to do something covertly, usually something dysfunctional or evil."
One of the Cambridge professors who led the research, John Naughton, is quoted by the Guardian as saying that, "Conspiracy theories are, and as far as we can tell always have been, a pretty important part of life in many societies, and most of the time that has gone beneath the radar of the established media."
Mr Naughton also reportedly asserted that such theories serve a purpose as a way of "trying to make sense of a complex and confusing world for an ordinary citizen."
Overall, the sample size in the UK was 2,171 adults, which the report insists was weighed to be "representative" of the general population.
Another key finding reveals the clear concern that those who voted to leave the EU have about immigration, particularly from Muslim-majority countries: 31% of leave voters believe that "Muslim immigration is part of a bigger plan to make Muslims the majority of the country's population." 6% of remain voters hold that belief, according to the research.
Is this a conspiracy theory in its own right? pic.twitter.com/99dOgG0rKn— 𝔾𝕣𝕠𝕠𝕧𝕖𝔾𝕖𝕟𝕖𝕣𝕒𝕥𝕠𝕣 (@groovegenerator) November 23, 2018
Reportedly, the most widely held conspiracy theory, shared by 44% of Brits, is that which says "even though we live in what's called a democracy, a few people will always run things in this country anyway."
Some have however, taken issue with the idea that such sentiment constitutes conspiracy theory.
That’s not a conspiracy theory, it is a correct analysis predicated on elite theory pic.twitter.com/1aXUbEunsI
— Matt Zarb-Cousin (@mattzarb) November 23, 2018
It’s quite terrifying that the Guardian would treat a political opinion — the wealthy and powerful are able to exercise undue influence over politics in capitalist societies — as a conspiracy theory.— Grace Blakeley (@graceblakeley) November 23, 2018
They’re effectively trying to police the terrain of acceptable discourse. https://t.co/Idg375aCUD
Such attitudes however appear to tie in with a more general mistrust of authority among people in the UK, a phenomenon also noted in the research: 76% of respondents said that they do not trust politicians and 77% said that they do not trust journalists "much" or "at all."
The scope of the investigation was not limited to Britain, but was also conducted in a place often considered to be the home of modern conspiracy theory: the United States. It was found that 47% of supporters of president Trump believe global warming to be a man-made hoax, while 2.3% of Hilary Clinton supporters apparently hold that view. Overall, 64% of Americans reportedly believe one or more conspiracy theory.