Is the Earth really flat? Did NASA fake the Moon landings? Do COVID-19 vaccinations implant people with microchips for tracking? These and other pseudo-scientific conspiracy claims get wide exposure on social media such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, where they are avidly shared by believers and trolls, giving an impression to some people that support for such claims is growing. But among the general public, just how prevalent are such beliefs? On a nationally representative survey, we asked whether people agreed, disagreed, or were unsure about these conspiracy claims—and for comparison, asked similar questions about some basic scientific facts, such as whether Earth is billions of years old.
Acceptance or openness to conspiracy beliefs was significantly higher among certain subgroups, including Millennials and supporters of ex-president Trump. Conspiratorial thinking or conspiracist ideation has become a prominent feature of current U.S. politics, shaping how many people think about elections, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other issues. Origins and explanations for conspiratorial beliefs are consequently the focus of much research.1 The survey results described below fit generally with previous studies, while adding new details.