Researchers: Both political parties believe ‘conspiracy theories’

Oct 27, 2020, 6:51 AM | Updated: 8:32 am
political conspiracy theories money dollar all seeing eye...
File - Unsplash

SALT LAKE COUNTY – If you think conspiracy theories only affect people on the other side of the political aisle, you need to think again.  A new study shows members of both parties are falling for bad information, but why is this happening? 

Elvis is still alive. Bigfoot roams the forests of Washington. NASA staged the moon landing. Conspiracy theories have existed for millennia.  However, officials with the Department of Public Safety said there is a difference between misinformation, malinformation and disinformation. Misinformation is false but not created out of any intent to lie to people.  Malinformation means factual evidence taken out of context; bad actors specifically make disinformation in order to trick people.

Evidence of bad information in Utah

In recent weeks, state investigators have found people trying to spread bad information about the presidential election.  Sgt. Jeffrey Plank says one man posted a video that appeared to show a problem with the state’s voter registry.

“Someone had made it look like you were unable to register yourself with the Republican Party,” Plank said. “The voter database was never at risk.  He was just able to make it look like his computer would only let him see certain things as far as the parties to register for.”

University of Utah American History Professor Bob Goldberg says some of the most prominent theories surround the Kennedy assassination.

“Then, you see it again during 9/11, almost parallel to the Kennedy assassination.  There’s the idea that the oil companies are in line with the American military and the CIA to gain power throughout the Middle East,” Goldberg said.

Conspiracy theories unlikely to go away

He says there are reasons why political conspiracy theories will never truly go away.  One, some of the conspiracies have been proven to be true, like the existence of Area 51.  Two, there’s a declining trust of institutions like the media, religion, and of course, government.  Pollsters from Gallup first started asking people if they trust the government to do the right thing all or most of the time back in 1958, and back then, 75% of Americans did.

“As this poll has been taken every year since 1958, what we see is an absolute erosion in that sense of trust and faith in the government,” he said.

Now, he says only 17% of Americans feel that way.  Plus, he says the theories we believe tend to validate our identities; he worries the country will stay frozen in opposition between the two parties.

“People aren’t going to different networks or different outlets to check the veracity of a story.  They get it, they read it and they believe it,” Goldberg said.

Both major parties susceptible

According to a recent report by Bloomberg, most Americans believe something that is either unproven or debunked.  On one hand, you have the Republicans who are more likely to believe COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the seasonal flu.  On the other, 60% of Democrats believe Russia has compromising information about President Trump.

Another topic of contention is mail-in voting.  For example, people found ballots in the trash in states like Pennsylvania and California. So, were those isolated incidents, or a sign that the election is rigged?  University of Utah Philosophy Professor Jim Tabery says it’s dangerous to downplay the issue and to over-inflate it.

“One wrong response to that is, ‘Oh, look we can’t trust mail-in voting, at all, because this happened.  As a result, we can’t trust anything that comes out of this election, at all, because this happened.’  The other wrong response is to say, ‘Oh, that didn’t happen, don’t worry about that,’ or, ‘There’s nothing to see, here,’” Tabery said. 

Emotion drives conspiracy 

He believes people are more prone to accept these political conspiracy theories when they stop thinking rationally and start thinking emotionally.  On the bright side, we have more ways to verify what is true than before.

“There is one virtue of living in this world where information constantly comes out and that is there is video documentation of almost everything,” he said.

Tabery worries a lot of people will distrust the results of the election, especially since mail-in voting could slow things down. He pleads with people to be patient. 

“We, as a society, have grown accustomed to knowing the outcome of an American election the night it takes place,” Tabery said.

Today’s Top Stories


Utah Republicans are looking to ban transgender surgeries and other hormone-based care....
Mark Jones

Senate confirms John Valentine as chair of Utah State Tax Commission

John Valentine was confirmed by the Utah State Senate on Thursday to serve as chair of the Utah State Tax Commission. He has served in that role since 2014.
1 day ago
Utah capitol is picture. Leaders reacted to a leaked abortion opinion...
Chris Jacobs

Legislative committee discusses rule banning conversion therapy

Conversion therapy was a topic of discussion by a legislative committee on Thursday. The committee adjourned without making a decision one way or the other.
1 day ago
Romney elections ballot safety...
Lindsay Aerts

Sen. Romney touts safety of Utah elections, says he won’t run for president in 2024

After touring Weber County's vote center, Sen. Romney said he has no doubt that Utah elections are safe and secure.
1 day ago
FILE: An air tanker drops retardant on the Parleys Canyon west of Park City on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2...
Dan Bammes

Utah lawmakers hear concerns about canyon wildfires, outdated plans

City council members told Utah legislators they have concerns about an aging plan to address fire in Utah's wildland urban interfaces.
1 day ago
The Trump Organization's former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg arrives at court, Thursda...
MICHAEL R. SISAK Associated Press

Trump Organization CFO pleads guilty in tax evasion case

Prosecutors alleged that the company gave untaxed fringe benefits to senior executives, including Weisselberg, for 15 years.
1 day ago
Former Vice President Mike Pence gestures during the "Politics and Eggs" breakfast gathering, Wedne...
HOLLY RAMER Associated Press

Pence tells GOP to stop lashing out at FBI over Trump search

But Pence, who is trying to stake out his own political path as he and Trump both consider 2024 presidential campaigns, also had a message for the GOP.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Researchers: Both political parties believe ‘conspiracy theories’