Beliefs in conspiracy theories among African Americans: A comparison of elites and masses

William Paul Simmons, Sharon Parsons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Objective. Several studies have reported a widespread belief in conspiracy theories among African Americans. Such theories have been shown to have possible deleterious effects, especially when they deal with HIV/AIDS. It has been conjectured that African-American elites could play a role in dispelling these beliefs, unless, of course, they believe in these theories themselves. To examine this possibility the present study examines the conspiratorial beliefs of African-American locally elected officials in Louisiana and compares them with a previous study of African-American churchgoers in the same state. Methods. A systematic sample of 400 African-American locally elected officials was drawn from a list of all African-American elected officials in the state and 170 officials completed and returned the mail survey. Confirmatory factor analysis and OLS regression were used to analyze the attitude structure and determinants of beliefs, respectively. Results. The locally elected officials believe in these theories as much as the churchgoers and the structures of their beliefs are also very similar. In some very important ways, however, the predictors of these beliefs differ between the two samples. Conclusions. Our findings suggest that beliefs in conspiracy theories are widespread and that African-American locally elected officials will not seek to dispel these beliefs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)582-598
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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