Commentary: American support for conspiracy theories and armed rebellion isn’t new

Commentary: American support for conspiracy theories and armed rebellion isn’t new

Americans had to confront a new reality when an angry mob attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021: Some of their fellow citizens were in the grips of a false reality and had resorted to violence to support it. Conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election and the strange alternate universe of QAnon helped drive the attack, which has prompted concerns about further domestic upheaval. In the year since, a flurry of studies and analyses have tried to gauge the American appetite for conspiracy theories and the likelihood of more violence – even civil war. As someone who has studied the conspiracy theories that followed the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I keep revisiting a May 2013 poll about gun control that found widespread doubts about that shooting and shockingly high support for armed rebellion. Almost eight years before the Capitol was attacked by partisans bent on reversing the results of an election, nearly one-third of Americans surveyed – and a whopping 44% of Republicans – said in a 2013 PublicMind poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University that armed rebellion might soon be necessary in the U.S. to protect liberties. The finding was so disconcerting that the poll was dismissed by some prominent political observers as too unbelievable to be true. Motivated reasoning I recently interviewed the political psychologist who designed the poll, as well as a journalist who blasted its conclusions and now writes about the fallout from the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. Daniel […]

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