Jan Fidrmuc (Université de Lille) - Who Believes in Conspiracy Theories, and Why?

Co-author: Olga Zajkowska (University of Warsaw)

On 10th April 2010, the Polish presidential plane crashed near Smolenks, Russia. The official Polish and Russian investigations attributed the crash to pilot error compounded by bad weather. Many Poles, however, believe that the crash was the result of a conspiracy. We use this event and unique panel dataset to investigate which socio-economic characteristics predispose switches in beliefs in conspiracy theories. We find that those inclined to accept a conspiracy theory tend to display similar characteristics as those who abandon conspiracy beliefs. Adopting and shedding conspiracy beliefs are similar processes: conspiracy believers are open to persuasion and manipulation. Effective education and communication could reverse the spread of conspiracy theories.

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