Conspiracies Aren't Just For Republicans

October 03, 2012, 5:26 PM UTC

Over the course of this year, I have been following the “Birther” controversy. Barack Obama continues to be plagued by rumors that he is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and, as a result, is not eligible to serve as president.

These rumors have shown surprising resilience among the American public in general, but particularly among Republicans. As I have shown in a recent post , 39 percent of Republicans believe that Obama was not born in the United States and another 34 percent are “not sure” if he was.

A recent YouGov poll shows that it is not simply Republicans who view the world through conspiratorial glasses. From September 15-17, 2012, YouGov surveyed 1000 Americans and asked why Romney will not release his full tax returns (for more on this question, see here). While we do not know for sure why Romney will not release his returns, I gave respondents 11 plausible explanations to choose from. Among these was the conjecture that Romney was involved in voter fraud. While this conspiracy theory has not received much press, it has been circulating through the internet (see here and here).

Overall, 12 percent of the sample believed that “Romney’s tax returns would show that he was not a resident of Massachusetts in 2010 when he voted in the state election.” However, as with the Birther controversy, there was a large partisan gap in subscription to this belief. Only 3 percent of Republicans supported this statement, but 21 percent of Democrats believed that Romney committed voter fraud.

While these numbers are admittedly smaller than the partisan gap on the birther controversy, they show that it is not just Republicans who are susceptible to conspiracy theories.