Kevin Drum: Very few Americans believe Q Anon conspiracy theories

At least some of the people who rioted at the Capitol last month were motivated or at least associated themselves with Q Anon conspiracy theories. The so-called Q Anon Shaman who entered the Capitol wearing a horned helmet is just one example. Another man named Doug Jensen, who has since been charged, was wearing a Q Anon t-shirt when he became one of the first people to breach the Capitol.

Partly as a result of this very visible presence, Q Anon has gotten a huge amount of attention from the media in the past month. But today, blogger Kevin Drum reminds us that Q Anon believers represent a tiny fraction of Americans, though you might not know it if you didn’t look carefully at some surveys:

A few days ago Morning Consult released a poll showing that 18% of American adults believed in QAnon’s conspiracy theories. Shazam! That might be down a bit from previous polls, but 18% is still a lot. It’s one out of six Americans.

Except that if you read closely, that was 18% “among all adults who had heard of the group.”

So here’s the graph Morning Consult created based on this poll:

And here’s the corrected version created by Kevin Drum which accounts for the fact that most people in the U.S. haven’t heard about Q Anon.

As Drum points out, that graph shows the people who think Q Anon is “somewhat accurate.” If you ask how many people think it’s “very accurate” it drops to 2% of Americans. In other words, a tiny fringe.

Looking back at prior surveys I seem this same dynamic. The Center for American Progress released a report about conspiracy theories last October which included a survey about a number of theories including Q Anon. Here’s what they found:

Despite the considerable amount of news coverage devoted to QAnon and the activities of its followers, many Americans report being unfamiliar with the conspiracy theory. More than six in 10 (61 percent) Americans say they have not heard or read anything about QAnon. About one-third (32 percent) of Americans report having a little familiarity with the conspiracy, while only 7 percent report having heard or read a lot about it…

Among those familiar with QAnon, few believe its claims are accurate. Only 16 percent of Americans who have heard or read at least a little about the conspiracy theory say the “information shared by QAnon has generally been shown to be accurate.” Eighty percent of those familiar with QAnon say its claims or theories are not accurate.

Here’s the chart from the CAP report:

Notice that more Democrats than Republicans had heard of Q Anon as of last September. The overwhelming majority of Republicans hadn’t heard of it and overall about 7% of Americans believed it was accurate (10% Republicans and 4% Democrats). That’s still a fairly small fringe. As the CAP report pointed out, there are a lot of other political conspiracy theories that are far more popular on both the right and left.

That’s the full chart and you’ll notice Q Anon wouldn’t have made it into this list of the top 8. The most widely believed conspiracy was the one about genetically modified foods because it had roughly equal support on the right and left. The claim about Putin having kompromat on Trump was believed by 60 percent of Democrats but only 10 percent of Republicans.

The point is that while Q Anon was a motive for some of the people who rioted at the Capitol, it’s very much a fringe belief. And evidence suggests it’s support has dropped since the election and the inauguration. At this point it’s pretty insignificant. There are certainly many other political conspiracy theories out there (Russia! Russia! Russia!) with a lot more adherents.

David Strom 6:41 PM on September 26, 2022
David Strom 4:41 PM on September 26, 2022