Conspiracy Theory Beliefs and Political Trust: The Moderating Role of Political Communication

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Conspiracy Theory Beliefs and Political Trust: The Moderating Role of Political Communication


  • Bernd Schlipphak Department of Political Science, University of Münster, Germany
  • Mujtaba Isani German Center for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM), Germany
  • Mitja D. Back Department of Psychology, University of Münster, Germany


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Abstract:  A plentitude of research has analyzed citizens’ belief in conspiracy theories and its individual‐level correlates. Yet, the effects of (political) context factors on the causes and effects of individual belief in conspiracy theories are still neglected. However, such context should be especially relevant when it comes to the impact of one’s belief in conspiracy theories on one’s political preference. In this article, we argue that the communication of governmental actors exerts a moderating influence on the link leading from a belief in conspiracy theories to political attitudes. In a nutshell, the belief in conspiracy theories should make citizens less likely to distrust their government—and the political system in general—in contexts where these theories are shared or at least publicly represented by governmental actors. Using two original data sets with data from Germany, Poland, and Jordan (Study 1) and data from Germany, Poland, Sweden, and France (Study 2), we test our argument based on an overall sample of about 10,000 cases. Our results indicate that higher degrees of generic conspiracy theories beliefs are associated with higher levels of political distrust across countries. Yet, confirming our argument, such an effect takes place less strongly in those countries in which governmental actors use conspiracy theories as a political communication strategy.

Keywords:  conspiracy beliefs; conspiracy mentality; conspiracy theories; political communication; political trust

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v10i4.5755


© Bernd Schlipphak, Mujtaba Isani, Mitja D. Back. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.