Do voting and election outcomes predict changes in conspiracy beliefs? Evidence from two high-profile U.S. elections

Sangmin Kim, Olga Stavrova, Kathleen D. Vohs

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5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Despite widespread recognition that conspiracy theories carry the potential for serious harm, relatively little research has investigated possible antidotes to conspiracy beliefs. Previous theorizing posits that belief in conspiracy theories is driven in part by existential motives related to a sense of control and social motives aimed at maintaining a positive image of oneself and one's ingroup. Using electoral contests as the context, we investigated whether the act of voting (i.e., addressing existential motives) and seeing one's preferred candidate win (i.e., addressing social motives) were associated with a reduction in conspiracy beliefs. In two two-wave studies of high-profile U.S. elections, we measured endorsement of conspiracy beliefs before the election and after the results were known, thereby tracking change in conspiracy belief endorsement over time. Both Study 1 (2020 U.S. Presidential election) and Study 2 (2021 Georgia Senate runoff election) showed a significant decrease in conspiracy beliefs among people who supported the winning candidate, consistent with the importance of social motives. The findings highlight the merits of one's political ideology receiving support and recognition for potentially abating conspiracy beliefs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104396
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume103
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors

Keywords

  • Conspiracy beliefs
  • Existential motive
  • Political ideology
  • Social motive
  • Voting

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