The Earth is flat. We have been secretly contacted by intelligent beings from other planets. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did not land on the moon in 1969. They may sound like bizarre statements, but a new poll suggests a sizable number of Canadians believe in these and other conspiracy theories.
About five per cent of us are flat-earthers, the poll suggests, while 11 per cent say they think the lunar landings were a hoax. And one-third of respondents say they think evidence that aliens have been in contact with our planet is being hidden from the public.
Polling firm Leger surveyed 1,529 Canadian adults and 1,011 Americans between Nov. 24 and 26, asking about their beliefs in several popular conspiracy theories. The poll cannot be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not considered truly random samples.
In all, 79 per cent of Canadians and 84 per cent of Americans surveyed reported believing in at least one of a list of conspiracy theories mentioned in the poll. In both countries, conservative-leaning voters were more likely to believe in conspiracies.
Just over a quarter of American respondents say they believe global warming doesn’t exist, compared to 16 per cent of Canadians.
The most popular, among Canadians and Americans alike, was the notion that the mainstream media is manipulating the information it disseminates. Fifty-five per cent of Canadian respondents and 67 per cent of American ones say they believe that to be the case, while another 10 per cent of Canadian survey participants said they don’t know.
In second place is the long-standing theory that John F. Kennedy’s assassination was a coverup. Kennedy was shot while riding in a convertible in his motorcade on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested the same day, though he claimed he was not responsible. Oswald was shot and killed two days later in the Dallas police station.
More than a third of Canadian respondents and just shy of half of Americans reported they do not believe the official account of the former president’s death.
While the poll did not present alternative theories, many of the popular conspiracies about Kennedy’s assassination involve his then-vice-president, Lyndon B. Johnson, the CIA, the mafia, and other countries including Cuba and Russia.
About one-third of respondents from both countries say they think the car crash that killed Princess Diana in Paris in August 1997 was an assassination, rather than an accident.
The same number of Canadians — 34 per cent — said they believe scientists and governments are withholding a known cure for cancer.
Thirty-two per cent of Canadians and 51 per cent of Americans surveyed believe COVID-19 was created as a biological weapon in a lab.
U.S. intelligence officials released a report in June that rejected some points raised by those who argue COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese lab, stating that American spy agencies are divided over how the pandemic began.
That report said four intelligence agencies still believe the virus was transferred from animals to humans, while two agencies — the Energy Department and the FBI — believe the virus leaked from a lab. The CIA has not made an assessment.
The June report was met with anger from Republicans, some of whom argued at the time that a lab leak was the only option that made sense. The poll suggests 70 per cent of Republican voters believe in the lab leak theory.
Republicans were also more likely to report they believe the government is hiding the truth about the harmfulness of vaccines, a conspiracy that had support from 63 per cent of GOP voters and 49 per cent of Americans overall.
Those trends were reflected in the Canadian data, too: a third of those polled believe governments are lying about vaccines, but that number jumps to 45 per cent of Conservative-leaning voters.
The survey results also suggest that among the four major political parties in Canada, Tory voters lead the way in believing in every one of the conspiracies presented in the poll except for one: half of Bloc Québécois voters are unconvinced by the official account of JFK’s assassination.
There was also less of a discrepancy among voting intentions when it came to survey respondents who said they believe that evidence of alien contact is being hidden from the public. The survey also suggests the belief that mainstream media manipulates information is strong across the political spectrum, with those intending to vote Conservative at 69 per cent, Liberal at 37 per cent, the NDP at 47 per cent and the Bloc at 44 per cent.
A quarter of Conservative supporters surveyed say they think the 2020 U.S. election was rigged and stolen from Donald Trump. That’s eight points above the Canadian average of 17 per cent, but well shy of the 57 per cent of Republicans who think the same.
A regional breakdown suggests Albertans are most likely to believe there’s a secret global elite working to establish a world government, at 44 per cent, and that feminism is a strategy to enable women to control society, at 19 per cent.
The feminism control theory was almost twice as popular among Canadian men than women.
Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2023.
— With files from The Associated Press