What drives people to believe in Zika conspiracy theories?

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23 Scopus citations


Conspiracy theories and other pseudo-scientific claims about the Zika virus have been prominent on social media. To what extent are the public concerned about the virus, and to what extent have the public adopted Zika conspiracy theories? Using data from the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, we show that a majority of Americans are not concerned about the Zika virus, but approximately one in five Americans believes in at least one Zika-related conspiracy theory. The most widely believed is that the virus is caused by genetically modified mosquitoes. We find that elevated levels of conspiracy thinking are correlated with both concern over Zika and belief in Zika-related conspiracy theories. For example, a person scoring the maximum on the conspiratorial thinking scale is estimated to believe in.61 Zika conspiracy theories while a person scoring the minimum is estimated to believe in only.06 Zika conspiracy theories. This study demonstrates the role of predispositions, specifically underlying conspiracy thinking, in the acceptance of conspiratorial and unscientific beliefs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36
JournalPalgrave Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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