Which conspiracy theories do Americans believe?

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
December 08, 2023, 7:00 PM GMT+0

A new YouGov survey finds that most Americans — 54% — believe that Lee Harvey Oswald definitely or probably did not act alone in assassinating John F. Kennedy in 1963. Large shares of Americans, though fewer than half, also believe other unfounded claims, including that Barack Obama was not born in the United States (31%) and that voting machines were programmed to change votes in the 2020 election (29%).

One in five or fewer think it's likely true that the government is using COVID-19 vaccines to microchip Americans (20%), that the government was behind the 9/11 attacks (20%), or that the 1969 moon landing was staged (18%).

A large share — 41% — believe a broader theory: that regardless of who is officially in charge of the government and other organizations, there is a single group of people who secretly control events and rule the world together.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to believe most of the theories asked about, with especially large partisan gaps for claims relating to voting machines in the 2020 election (53% of Republicans believe it is definitely or probably true compared to 13% of Democrats), Obama's birthplace (54% vs. 15%), and Kennedy's assassination (68% vs. 40%).

Two in five Republicans — 42% — believe it's definitely or probably true that many top Democrats are involved in child sex-trafficking rings; just 14% of Democrats agree. As for top Republicans' involvement in child sex-trafficking, 14% of Republicans say they believe it compared to 28% of Democrats.

— Carl Bialik contributed to this article

See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on November 9 - 13, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.

Image: Getty (Andrew Bret Wallis)