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Conspiracy supporters in V4 countries are not the same, however, political preferences play a vital role

21. 2. 2024 | 1940 visits

The "Pandemic Truths" project carried out by the Institute for Sociology SAS examines the issue of the so-called conspiracy theories or stories (that is, claims according to which social processes and events are the result of a secret effort of small groups of citizens to harm the majority) in the countries of the Visegrad Group. Based on the data analysis obtained through a questionnaire-based internet survey conducted in November and December 2023, it can be concluded that conspiracy theories related to the Covid-19 pandemic still dominate in all the investigated countries. Somewhat less popular are the theories we called anti-science and anti-Western conspiracies. At the same time, anti-Western conspiracies are the type of theories that show the biggest differences between the V4 countries, while Slovak respondents agree with such conspiracy theories significantly the most.

 

Conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 pandemic

Respondents in Slovakia agreed the most with the theories about the Covid-19 pandemic. This is true of each of the three assessed statements ("The COVID-19 pandemic was part of a larger plan to control society", "During the Covid-19 epidemic, reports of the death toll from the coronavirus were artificially overestimated", and "Information about the serious harmful effects of vaccination against COVID-19 are being deliberately withold.").

 

Agreement with conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 pandemic (sum of answers "probably true" and "definitely true"), data in %.

 

Slovakia

Czech Republic

Hungary

Poland

The Covid-19 pandemic was part of a larger plan to control society.

40.2

36

39.1

32.7

During the Covid-19 epidemic, reports of the death toll from the coronavirus were artificially overestimated.

38.2

34.4

37.5

30.7

Information about serious harmful effects of vaccination against Covid-19 are being deliberately withheld.

44.3

41.2

42.2

35.4

 

 

However, conspiracy theories related to the Covid-19 pandemic two years after the pandemic still resonate in the other surveyed countries: 56% of respondents in Slovakia consider at least one of these theories to be true (and 28.9% of respondents consider all three statements to be true), in Hungary, it is 56% (and 25.8% of respondents consider all three statements to be true), in the Czech Republic, it is 54% (and 23.7% of respondents consider all three to be true) and in Poland, it is 48% (and 20.6% of respondents consider all three to be true).

It is a fact that in all V4 countries, the youngest respondents (under 30) and university-educated respondents believe theories about the Covid-19 pandemic the least. In Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 pandemic are most believed by respondents who subjectively describe their household income situation as bad, but this finding does not apply to Poland at all.

In Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland, agreement with pandemic theories is significantly related to the declared electoral support of individual political parties (in the Czech Republic and Poland, voters of the current opposition believe in such conspiracies significantly more, in Slovakia, voters of the current coalition believe in such conspiracies significantly more). In Hungary, the voters of the ruling Fidesz party do not significantly differ from the voters of other political parties when it comes to such conspiracies.

 

Anti-science conspiracies

We measured agreement with “anti-science” conspiracy theories with the help of three statements: "Most of the public opinion surveys that concern electoral preferences or political issues are manipulated", "The cure for cancer or other serious diseases already exists, but the pharmaceutical companies are keeping it from us" and "Global warming is a hoax".

 

Agreement with anti-science conspiracy theories (sum of answers "probably true" and "definitely true"), data in %.

 

Slovakia

Czech Republic

Hungary

Poland

Most of the public opinion surveys that concern electoral preferences or political issues are manipulated.

36.2

34

43.7

28.9

The cure for cancer or other serious diseases already exists, but the pharmaceutical companies are keeping it a secret from us.

40.1

29.4

38.8

30.1

Global warming is a hoax.

19.5

18.6

10.5

15.4

 

At least one of these three statements is considered true by 60% of respondents in Hungary (but only 5% of respondents consider all three statements to be true), 55% of respondents in Slovakia (10% consider all of them to be true), 51% in the Czech Republic (6% considers all to be true) and 47% in Poland (7% of respondents consider all to be true). The interesting thing about anti-science claims is that they resonate to different degrees in individual countries. For example, in Hungary, almost 44% of respondents consider the statement about manipulation of electoral preferences to be true, which is the highest amount among the V4 countries. On the contrary, global warming is doubted the least by respondents in Hungary (10.5%). At the same time, the supporters of individual statements overlap the least in this country, as evidenced by the lowest proportion of respondents who consider all three statements to be true.

The statement about the manipulation of public opinion surveys is considered true in all countries, especially by sympathizers of opposition parties, but Slovakia is an exception: the statement was considered true mainly by voters of the SMER and SNS parties. 

Voters of the government parties in Slovakia agree more with the statement that global warming is a fabrication, while in the Czech Republic and Poland, more voters of the opposition parties agree with it. Demographic characteristics such as age and education play a role in agreeing with a statement that disputes global warming, whereas older age and lower education are associated with greater acceptance of the statement. This applies to Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Such a connection has not been confirmed in Poland.

Agreeing with the statement that talks about the secrecy of the cure for serious diseases by pharmaceutical companies, similar to the statement about global warming, is related to political sympathies, but also to education and subjective financial situation. This applies to all countries except Poland, where education and financial situation do not play a significant role. 

 

Anti-Western conspiracies

We measured agreement with “anti-Western” conspiracy theories with the help of three statements: "The white Christian population is being deliberately replaced by migrants from non-Christian countries", "NGOs are political agents of the West and are trying to impose Western culture on us", "Gender ideology aims to destroy the morals of our society, suppress Christianity and bring about the disruption of the West" and "The United States of America, in cooperation with the Ukrainian government, operated laboratories for the production of prohibited biological weapons on the territory of Ukraine".

 

Agreement with anti-Western conspiracy theories (sum of answers "probably true" and "definitely true"), data in %.

 

Slovakia

Czech Republic

Hungary

Poland

The white Christian population is being deliberately replaced by migrants from non-Christian countries.

27.0

29.8

28.1

21.6

NGOs are political agents of the West and are trying to impose Western culture on us.

33.4

24.6

21.4

18.2

Gender ideology aims to destroy the morals of our society, suppress Christianity and bring about the disruption of the West.

35.6

28.4

27.7

23.1

The United States of America, in cooperation with the Ukrainian government, operated laboratories for the production of prohibited biological weapons on the territory of Ukraine.

32.9

25.3

25.8

12.7

 

Slovaks most trust conspiracy theories related to non-governmental organizations, "gender ideology" and biological weapons in Ukraine, while Czech respondents trust conspiracies about deliberate migration from non-Christian countries. The highest rate of anti-Western conspiracy theories is in Slovakia, and the lowest is in Poland.

14.8% of respondents in Slovakia think that all three statements are true, in the Czech Republic, it is 10.4%, 9.8% in Hungary and only 5.4% in Poland. The ranking of the countries would be similar if we calculated the average on a scale from 1 to 4 from the degree of agreement or disagreement with these four statements.

In Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, it is true that agreement with anti-Western conspiracies increases with the age of the respondents, while in Poland, middle-aged respondents agree with them the most. In all countries, respondents with higher education are the least likely to agree with anti-Western conspiracy theories, while in Poland and the Czech Republic, education plays the smallest role.  However, only in Slovakia and the Czech Republic is it true that respondents in the worst subjective income situation of the household agree more with anti-Western theories. We do not observe such a connection in Hungary and Poland.

In all V4 countries, agreement with anti-Western conspiracy theories is significantly related to the declared electoral support of individual political parties (in the Czech Republic and Poland, voters of the current opposition believe significantly more in such conspiracies, in Slovakia and Hungary, voters of the current coalition believe significantly more in such conspiracies).

 

Comparison of indexes of individual types of conspiracy theories in V4 countries

When comparing the indexes of individual types of theories, it is shown that while the differences between the V4 countries are relatively small for conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 pandemic or anti-science conspiracy theories, in the case of anti-Western conspiracies, the differences are much larger, and the rate of agreement with these conspiracies is by far the highest in Slovakia.

 

Conspiracy theory type indexes on a scale of 1 to 4 (higher value indicates greater agreement with conspiracy claims)

 

Slovakia

Czech Republic

Hungary

Poland

Index of Covid conspiracies

2.47

2.38

2.44

2.31

Index of anti-science conspiracies

2.2

2.1

2.2

2.08

Index of anti-Western conspiracies

2.23

2.06

2

1.78

 

"One of the most interesting findings of our comparative research study is the fact that the supporters of each type of conspiracy theory in the V4 countries are not the same. In all countries, they tend to favour conservatism more than liberalism, but while in Slovakia and the Czech Republic they tend to be on the left, in Hungary and especially in Poland, they are more on the right. This is then related to the differences in the social background of the supporters of the conspiracies: while in Slovakia and the Czech Republic they are subjectively the poorest respondents, such self-classification applies only partially in Hungary and not at all in Poland. In all V4 countries, political preference appears to be an extremely important factor related to conspiracy tendencies. Even more than social background or education, conspiracy supporters are defined by affiliation with a political party. The connection of conspiracies with the political environment thus appears to be an extremely important factor worthy of further investigation." - adds Robert Klobucký of the nstitute for Sociology SAS.

 

Prepared by Robert Klobucký and Marianna Mrva, Institute for Sociology SAS

Foto: pixabay.com/viaramami

 

The research was supported by the Slovak Research and Development Agency within the project Pandemic Truths: A Comparative Study of Conflicts Over Conspiracy Theories in Visegrad Countries (project no. APVV-21-0394, Principal Investigator: Dominik Želinský, research team: Robert Klobucký, Marianna Mrva, Terézia Šabová, Tímea Szabo, Kamil Charvát).

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