How Many Americans Believe a Conspiracy Killed JFK?

Lucy van Pelt, acting alone, pulled away the football.As we approach the 50th
anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death, Karlyn Bowman and Andrew
Rugg of the American Enterprise Institute have pulled together a

very useful paper
on the popularity of various conspiracy
theories over the last five decades. The authors assembled every
poll they could find since 1963 on the JFK, RFK, and MLK
assassinations, the Pearl Harbor and 9/11 attacks, Roswell,
Oklahoma City, and more — all sorts of conspiracy stories, from
the plausible (a Waco cover-up, Iraq war lies) to the loopy
(Holocaust denial, moon landing denial). For many of the topics,
several polls have been conducted over the years, allowing the
reader to track a theory’s popularity over time.

It’s a great resource, and it includes several surveys I’ve
never seen before. (I wish I’d had it at hand when I was writing my

about America’s conspiracy folklore.) It is also
refreshingly reluctant to draw sweeping conclusions about
conspiracy believers. “We don’t find compelling evidence from the
data in this document that particular demographic groups are
susceptible to a belief in conspiracy theories,” Bowman and Rugg
write. “It depends on the theory. Middle-aged Americans are more
likely to believe in the JFK assassination conspiracy than older or
younger ones. Young people and Democrats are most likely to
subscribe to conspiracy theories about 9/11. Women are more likely
to believe foul play was involved in Princess Diana’s death. While
the demographic data presented here are by no means exhaustive,
we’re hesitant to endorse what much of the literature concludes —
that the young and less educated are more prone to conspiratorial

The institute also produced a short video to release alongside
the paper. I have a few cameos in it:

from Hit & Run

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