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Is democracy under threat? Why belief in conspiracy theories predicts autocratic attitudes

Is democracy under threat? Why belief in conspiracy theories predicts autocratic attitudes

Scholars and policy-makers are increasingly concerned with the detrimental effects of conspiracy theories. Yet, it remains unclear whether conspiracy beliefs actually pose a threat to democracy by rendering people less supportive of democratic governance. Three studies suggest that conspiracy theories may incite support for autocratic regimes. A first nationally representative sample (Greece, N = 492), established a link between conspiracy beliefs and rejection of democracy and the political status quo. Study 2 extended these findings (Greece, N = 264) by showing that conspiracy beliefs are positively related to support for autocracy, while feelings of political powerlessness (but not cynicism) partly mediate this relationship. Study 3 (USA, N = 300, pre-registered) directly tested whether perceptions of conspiracies enhance support for autocratic rule. Results revealed that the perceived presence of conspiracies increased support for autocracy, partly due to feelings of political powerlessness. These studies are the first ones to establish empirically that conspiracy theories may increase support for autocracy.

Publication Date: 2023

ISSN:0046-2772

 

File Type: 2939
Tags: Psychology
Author: Jan-Willem Prooijen, Kostas Papaioannou, Myrto Pantazi
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