The Ideological Slant of COVID-19-Related Conspiracies. A New Niche for the Far-Right?

New article by Carol Galais and Marc Guinjoan published at Journal of Representative Democracy

What makes believers in COVID-19-related conspiratorial stories different from the usual conspiracy theorists? To date, evidence on conspiratorial beliefs about COVID-19 is scant and it focuses on only a few countries. Moreover, it overlooks political and ideological factors, which might well help in the endeavour of halting misperceptions about the pandemic and understanding their political consequences. This research note examines the role of these explanatory factors (placement on the left-right scale, authoritarianism, freedom, and support for the incumbent party) in relation to conspiracy theories in general and COVID-19-related conspiratorial beliefs in particular. To do so, it uses a new case study: Spain. Relying on a large online survey (N = 3760), we find that right-wing individuals are more prone to embrace COVID-19-specific than general conspiracies. We also find that people that value security over freedom are more prone to falling for pandemic misbeliefs. Those holding more general conspiratorial beliefs stand out for their defence of freedom above anything else, as well as for their rebellion against authority, including the ruling party. This suggests that the pandemic has roused a new sort of conspiratorial believer: a conservative niche that might become attractive to emerging far-right parties.