Most Americans know someone who believes in what are classed as “conspiracy theories.” In some instances, these beliefs amount to believing that the moon landings never occurred or that UFOs have visited earth. Other beliefs are much more sinister. This class includes believing in a coming “New World Order,” a grand conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy, or that secret organizations control the government. If one looks with enough care and perseverance one could find nearly any person to fit a certain view, as long as the group studied was large enough. In other words, given an appropriate population, one may find what one wants in terms of opinion.

Recently, a polling entity, Public Policy Polling, found surprising results in terms of conspiracy theory belief in the American public. Let’s all don our tinfoil hats and look at the results.

Reported by the AtlanticWire, Public Policy Polling’s shows surprising results. According to their findings, roughly 87 million believe in a globalist plot to institute a New World Order, 160 million believe that Kennedy’s assassination was a conspiracy, and 47 million think that the plotting doctors and pharmacists “create” diseases in order to increase profits. The other results would make Monty Python’s Graham Chapman enter the room and declare “Stop! This is much too silly.” The poll further shows that 43 million believe the CIA was integral in creating crack cocaine, 18 million think Osama bin Laden was not killed, 47 million assert the government uses some form of mind control with television, and 12 million believe that “the ‘lizard people’ control our societies by gaining political power.”

But what does this mean? If we were to be proper thinkers, examining and questioning the data, we might find that many hailed Public Policy Polling as the most accurate polling entity in the last presidential election. Though, on the other hand, Public Policy Polling’s director Tom Jensen does not make his company look wholly unbiased and objective. Shortly after the election, Jensen noted in an interview that “These supposed polling experts on the conservative side are morons.” Jensen went on to call a polling rival “an idiot,” but did not give a reason why. He elaborated on his polling method and its elements that helped it succeed in predicting the presidential election. Jensen asserted that the “scientific” side of polling lost its importance to the “art” side. In other words, Public Policy Polling was successful not because they actually accurately made predictions based on numbers but on feelings and instincts. (Might we even say based on hopes?)

Perhaps we have simply been too biased about how we’ve gone about this bit of news. Perhaps it is time we look at it from a different perspective.

Widespread polling would likely show most Americans saying they live in a democracy. Obviously, the role of voting and the majority’s winning stands as democracy’s distinctive feature. If we place such an emphasis on voting and majority-rule, then why not also do the same for these conspiracy theories? Looking at the percentages, fifty-one percent said they believed the Kennedy assassination was part of a larger conspiracy. Subsequently, we would also believe that Oswald was not the only conspirator, as only twenty-five percent believe he “acted alone.” But if we’re going to look at this from a different perspective, why not also be a little relativist? After all, great things have come from relativism. Sure the majority is great and should decide, but this is the United States of America. In terms of the poll, no opinion numbering in the millions should be alienated or rejected—that just wouldn’t be “American.” Maybe the lizard Illuminati are in charge, the CIA created crack cocaine, the New World Order is on the way, and Osama bin Laden isn’t dead. After all, those shaky YouTube documentaries cite evidence, somewhat. Alex Jones seems to know his evidence and when to leap to conclusions. And the Lizard King himself, David Icke, appears a sincere individual.

The facetious and contrarian jokes aside, there might be something to be said about the Public Policy Polling’s findings. On the surface, some of the numbers might evidence fundamental failings in the public education systems, the means by which most Americans attain some kind of an education. True, individuals are free and responsible for forming their opinions. Whether they form opinions from the New York Times, close study of many fields, or conspiracy theorists, they bear responsibility’s burden in choosing what to think and believe. As noted earlier, the fringe will persist, regardless of education. From this same mode of thinking, then, the poll possibly reflects many sentiments held by conservatives: American public education has become a cesspool and does not promote critical thinking.

Additionally, we must analyze Public Policy Polling’s research. Yes, they were very accurate in the 2012 presidential election, but we saw this was due to chance and luck, rather than numbers. This polling entity has gained a reputation for conducting other polls that appear silly. Earlier this year, Public Policy Polling asked a profound question “If the candidates for President were Ronald McDonald and the Burger King, who would you vote for?” The normally minute “Not sure” won the majority. They also asked deep questions relating to Congress’s popularity in relation to “carnies,” “root canals,” and “Ghengis Khan,” among other things.
On another note, the conspiracy theory poll shows something more revealing than their absurdist tendencies. Integral to the conspiracy theory poll was the divide between Republicans and Democrats. Most believers in the New World Order are Republicans and independents, along with Obama being the Anti-Christ. These stranger beliefs are not the most important. Those who think global warming a “hoax” are overwhelmingly Republican and independent. The information from Tom Jensen, Public Policy Polling’s director, implores us to doubt their methods and motivations. While, this poll confines itself purely to party divides, it shows sentiments against those who do not vote for Democrats.

Politics now relies heavily on polls. Elections rely on polls even more heavily. Polls have a place, but they cannot predict the future. Apart from prediction, polls may vary in method and bias. The oracles at Public Policy Polling are not exempt from these questionable qualities. These polls serve to teach an important lesson: don’t take polls too seriously.

Christian Lopac | Wabash College | @CLopac