So are all Americans created equal when it comes to fearing collusion and conspiracies? Our recent research suggests that they are. As part of a 2012 national survey, we asked respondents about the likelihood of voter fraud as an explanation if their preferred presidential candidate did not win. Fifty percent of Republicans said it would be very or somewhat likely, compared to 44 percent of Democrats. This contradicts claims by Jonathan Chait that Republicans believe in electoral conspiracy theories far more than Democrats do.
Another 2012 national poll asked about fraud in specific presidential elections. Thirty-seven percent of Democrats believed that “President Bush’s supporters committed significant voter fraud in order to win Ohio in 2004,” compared to 36 percent of Republicans who believe that “President Obama’s supporters committed significant voter fraud in the 2012 presidential election.” Again, not much difference. This dovetails with Brendan Nyhan’s findings about “birther” and “truther” conspiracy theories. He found that Republicans were just as likely to believe that President Obama was born abroad as Democrats were likely to believe that 9/11 was an inside job.
If Republicans and Democrats are equally prone to believing in conspiracy theories, where then is the liberal equivalent of climate change denial? An obvious possibility is the belief that Big Oil conspires to marginalize unfavorable findings or block alternative energies. Our survey, for example, shows that 52 percent of Democrats believe corporations are conspiring against us.
And just as climate science is unpalatable for conservatives, there are many lines of scientific inquiry uncomfortable to liberals, such as genetic modification or nuclear power. Research into risks and benefits of these technologies has been met with more suspicion by the left.