Why It’s So Hard To Gauge Support For QAnon

How Many Americans Believe in the QAnon Conspiracy? The latest polls from June show that the time has come 15 percent. But wait, a poll last October found it was 7 percent. But even that is high compared to a rolling survey that was 4 percent earlier this month.

Why the inequality? Perhaps in order to minimize the power of QAnon, a mysterious clique of elite elites have signed a treaty with Satan and Marina Abramović Offering completely different survey results … or maybe it’s just difficult to vote on QAnon.

As much as QAnon feels like a decidedly modern phenomenon, much of its lore is rooted in conspiracy theories that have existed or existed for decades in some cases, Centuries (the gist is that a global cabal of elites is running a satanic ring for child trafficking and cannabilism). It’s part of what helped QAnon gain so much appeal, a kind of grand conspiracy movement that brings together aspects of many different faiths. But that also makes it difficult to measure.

What if someone thinks a few Q ideas are plausible? Should a poll consider them “believers”? What about Americans who support QAnon’s beliefs without realizing they are affiliated with QAnon?

Pollsters have strategies for solving these dilemmas, but solving them all at once is hard. Addressing one dilemma – say, avoiding the term “QAnon” so you don’t scare off people who hesitate to share their affiliation – opens the door to another (capturing people who are not affiliated with QAnon at all). As a result, each individual survey asks very different questions and ultimately also measures different things.

Consider a current survey by PRRI. It asked Americans if they agree with three separate statements, each part of the QAnon belief system, but QAnon was not mentioned by name. Fifteen percent of Americans agreed that “the government, media, and finance in the United States are controlled by a group of Satan’s worshiping pedophiles who are running a global child sex trafficking operation.” This statement is the central tenet of QAnon, but it is also not a single belief of the Movement. The fear of satan-worshiping pedophiles completely precedes QAnon, so belief in this statement is not limited to people who follow or have even heard of Q, according to Mary deYoung, a retired professor of sociology at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. DeYoung has studied the so-called “Satanic Panic” that imprecise beliefs popularized in the 1980s that satanic ritual abuse of children was widespread in this country. A 1986 abc news Poll found that 63 percent of Americans believed members of religious cults had “too much influence in this country,” and 54 percent of Americans believed there should be laws against Satan worship, according to a 1987 study Williamsburg Charter Foundation Survey.

The other statements asked by PRRI that a “storm is to come” to “sweep away the power elites” (20 percent) and that “patriots may resort to violence” (15 percent) are also not reserved for QAnon alone. The prediction of the “storm” mimics the apocalyptic language of evangelical Christianity, and the resort to violence would be supported by a variety of right-wing militias or extremists.

Natalie Jackson, PRRI research director, said the company had existing conspiracy theories in mind when designing the survey and carefully worded the statements to match those in QAnon sources. She also said that QAnon’s breadth of conspiratorial topics is in part why PRRI focused on the beliefs themselves rather than asking respondents to identify themselves as QAnon supporters. Someone could potentially subscribe to QAnon Ideas without realizing they were part of the movement, and PRRI wanted to capture those people’s beliefs too. (Other polling companies have focused on asking about beliefs rather than belonging to QAnon, and they have Found something similar Prices too the PRRI survey.)

“The bigger picture here is less about QAnon himself than about people who believe in such a wild conspiracy theory. I never thought I’d write a poll like this in my career, ”said Jackson. “Does it really matter at this point whether you are officially affiliated with QAnon, or is it more important that you see this as a real possibility?”

But along with the ability to attribute belief in QAnon to non-QAnon conspiracy theorists, asking about certain beliefs can pose another poll risk: expressive responses, a phenomenon where people sometimes answer poll questions with what feels comes closest to their views and not what they believe to be true. To take a 2016 survey by UMass Lowell / Odysseywhere nearly a quarter of millennials said they would prefer “a giant meteorite to hit the earth and instantly wipe out all human life” than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump who win the election. In a 2020 version of the New Hampshire poll, a majority of Democrats opted for the Meteor about Trump winning a second term.

Joshua Dyck, associate professor of political science and director of the Center for Public Opinion at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, said they never believed these respondents were sincere. “The reason we asked the question is because it’s funny, and because it’s a measure of negative partisanship and strong responses – people are going to say something crazy!” Said Dyck. “Sometimes I don’t know what to do with the QAnon answer. Do people really believe in the global conspiracy, the pedophile ring, or do they just hate Hillary Clinton so much? “

Dyck said it was difficult to get around the expressive response dilemma, but the experimental one Research has shown that offering money, for example, can improve people’s ability to give factual answers and reduce the effects of expressive responses and partisan bias.

But overcoming one dilemma sometimes opens the door to a new one. Joseph Uscinski, a political scientist at the University of Miami who has been interviewing Americans about QAnon since 2018, focuses on naming the movement explicitly, even if that means missing some “shy” QAnon followers.

Each of his QAnon surveys asks respondents to rate conspiracy theory on an “emotional thermometer” from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more positive feelings. QAnon rates consistently Mid to late 20th, making them one of the least disliked political groups Uscinski and his colleagues asked respondents about.

Uscinski points out that when Americans are asked directly whether they have heard of or believe in QAnon, the results are also consistent. In August 2019, an Emerson poll found that 5 percent of voters said “yes” when simply asked, “Do you believe in QAnon?” Among Americans who had heard of QAnon, 7 percent said they thought it was true, according to a survey by Yahoo / YouGov in October 2020. Similarly, a rolling tracker from Civiqs found that fewer than 10 percent of Americans consistently say they support QAnon, and that number has decreased over the past year (from 7 percent in September 2020 to 4 percent this week).

“The good news is that QAnon isn’t that big,” Uscinski said. “The bad news is that a lot of the crazy ideas that are at the forefront of QAnon are big, and they were probably long before QAnon ever came up.”

Asking respondents directly whether they believe in or support QAnon avoids picking up on unrelated conspiracy theorists, but it also risks another survey pitfalls: biasing social desirability, that is, when respondents give the answer they give consider what they believe to be socially acceptable rather than being honest about what they believe. Jackson said that some Q believers may initially be skeptical of pollers and are less likely to admit affiliation when asked directly. Not directly mentioning QAnon can mitigate this effect. For his part, Uscinski considers the risk of social desirability bias at QAnon to be minimal, there unabashed zeal, with the proponent seem to demonstrate their support.

The best strategy for unraveling all of these problems, according to Dyck, is to ask many different types of questions. Ideally, this would be done in a survey and repeated regularly with the same questions, but this is not often practical due to resource constraints.

Instead, these different types of questions, which measure different aspects of QAnon support, are spread across many different surveys. That makes it harder to draw conclusions, but when you add up all of the polls it becomes clear that the number of Americans who are really in the rabbit hole of QAnon is likely small, and the number of those who would be willing to act violently on behalf of them the movement is a tiny fraction of the total population. That’s not to say that QAnon isn’t a problem – it is. But the number of Americans who make up the population of the true believers is probably fewer than it sometimes appears.

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