The QAnon conspiracy is an umbrella of bizarre and unfounded beliefs, started by an anonymous user of message board 4chan and 8kun who claims without evidence to have special “Q clearance” access to US national security information.
Claims by the user who became known as “Q” are wide-ranging and (where they can be tested) demonstrably false. There were hopes that the QAnon conspiracy theory would lose followers and prominence following several prominent claims failing to materialize earlier this year. QAnon supporters believed that Trump would win November’s election. When this failed to happen, and Joe Biden was sworn in as President, their belief that Donald Trump was to expose a sex-trafficking ring at the heart of the “deep state” involving Hilary Clinton seemed less and less likely (and it was already fictional).
Thankfully it appears to be the case that online people have been turning away from the conspiracy. However, the problem hasn’t gone away entirely, as a new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) has found.
Rather than asking people directly whether they believe in QAnon, the institute asked over 5,149 adults (age 18 and up) living in the US whether they agreed with core beliefs associated with the conspiracy.
It found that an uncomfortably high 15 percent of Americans agreed with the statement “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation”. The belief was more prevalent amongst those who got their news from far-right news outlets such as One America News Network (OANN) and Newsmax (40 percent), people who do not watch television news (21 percent), and people who trust Fox News (18 percent).
Republicans were much more likely to believe the statement (23 percent) than Democrats (8 percent).
A second belief that was tested was that “there is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders”. 20 percent agreed with this tenet of QAnon, with Republicans (28 percent) again more likely to believe it than Democrats (14 percent). The divide among media consumers was visible here too, with followers of far-right media much more likely (48 percent) to agree with the statement, and people who trust Fox News (34 percent) above the national average too.
Perhaps the most worrying part of the poll was the not-insignificant number of people who agreed with the statement “because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country” (15 percent). Belief in the statement again fell along partisan and media-consumption lines.
Digging down deeper into less-prevalent views of QAnon, the survey also found that 9 percent of Americans believed in the false statement that “the COVID-19 vaccine contains a surveillance microchip that is the sign of the beast in biblical prophecy”, with 39 percent of QAnon believers agreeing with it and 1 percent of people who reject the Qanon conspiracy.
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