Countering QAnon’s Rise and Influence

This inaugural snapshot on QAnon kicks off our “American Right Democracy Roadmap” series. Read the full QAnon Snapshot here.

QAnon Beliefs Run Deeper than it Appears:

Though only 11% of the Right reports having a “favorable” view of the QAnon movement itself, Q-related beliefs are much more prevalent. 

  • A solid majority (62%) say they believe at least one and almost two in five (38%) believe at least two core Q beliefs when asked. 
  • What’s more, nearly three in five (59%) of those who explicitly disapprove of QAnon say they believe at least one core QAnon conspiracy. 

  • Respondents are most likely to believe “a global network of pedophiles torture and sexually abuse children” (60% total true; 28% “definitely true”)—a dramatic increase compared to a September 2020 survey in which 33% of Republicans believed a similar statement.

 

Clear Ties between QAnon, The Big Lie, and Anti-Vax Conspiracies:

Endorsement of Trump’s “Big Lie” about the 2020 election is widespread on the Right, with 54% of respondents saying Trump was the legitimate winner of the Presidential election, compared to only 26% who say Biden was. 

As shown below, those who endorse the Big Lie — compared to those who reject it — are more than twice as likely to have a favorable impression of QAnon (16% vs. 6%) and half as likely to have an unfavorable impression (29% vs. 61%).

  • Conspiracy beliefs about vaccines are held by sizeable minorities on the Right: 
    • 16% say they believe vaccines contain tracking chips,
    • 23% say they believe the COVID-19 pandemic to be a hoax, and;
    • 24% say they believe that the government is covering up a link between vaccines and autism.
  • However, vaccine resistance on the Right extends considerably beyond this group (32% say they would not get the COVID-19 vaccine).

 

QAnon Belief Highly Correlated with Racial Attitudes:

Results from a series of multiple regression analyses suggest that racial attitudes among white respondents (92% of all surveyed) are powerfully predictive of QAnon belief and favorability, particularly as measured by a composite white identity index and an index of overt racial animus (or hostility towards people of color). 

  • When scaled identically, these measures of white in-group identification and out-group animus are many times more predictive of respondents’ favorability towards QAnon than demographics, partisanship, ideology, or Trump favorability.
  • These findings are consistent with a large and growing body of research identifying white racial attitudes as important determinants of political identities, attitudes, and behavior on the American Right. 

 

QAnon has Deeper Hold on Younger Generations:

QAnon favorability—and particularly QAnon belief—is notably more prevalent among younger Americans on the Right. 

Results from several multiple regression analyses suggest that:

  • The relationship between Q belief and age remains strong when controlling for a wide range of attitudes and demographics. 

Moreover, higher Q favorability is not limited to younger non-voters: 18-34 year-olds on the Right who are verified voters from both 2020 primary and general elections are more likely to support Q than their older counterparts.

 

QAnon Beliefs Also More Prevalent Among Women:

  • This may be due partly to differences in educational attainment, as the gender gap is only significant in a multiple regression analysis for respondents with less than a Bachelor’s degree. 

  • Conversely, at low levels of political knowledge, men are more credulous with respect to QAnon than women, suggesting gender differences in political knowledge may contribute to this relationship

 

QAnon Belief Associated with Low Political Knowledge, Not News Sources:

  • Respondents with higher levels of political knowledge report lower levels of QAnon belief. 
  • Moreover, regression analyses suggest that political knowledge matters much more than where those on the right get their news. 
  • Once we condition on political knowledge and include demographic and attitudinal controls, we find no significant differences in QAnon belief between users and non-users of seven different types of news media.

The Takeaway: Opportunities to Consider

Conspiracy theories associated with the QAnon movement are endorsed by large numbers of Americans on the Right, although few hold explicitly favorable opinions of the QAnon movement itself. 

  • Demographically, younger cohorts and women are more likely to hold QAnon-associated beliefs. 
  • Overall, measures of white identity and hostility towards racial and ethnic out-groups are far and away the most powerful predictors of QAnon favorability and belief.
  • Finally, we measure clear connections between QAnon beliefs and even more mainstream conspiracy beliefs that receive widespread airtime on conservative media and from prominent political figures on the Right: President Trump’s “Big Lie” and COVID-19 vaccine resistance. 

Nonetheless, this research suggests clear opportunities to counter the influence of QAnon and other conspiracy movements. For example:

  • Future research should focus on identifying whether and how the low favorability of the QAnon Movement itself can be harnessed to decrease adherence to its core tenets. 
  • Further, the strong association between low political knowledge and QAnon belief suggests that in the short term QAnon is unlikely to gain much ground with highly-politically aware and engaged voters, such as party activists. 
  • In the longer term, this suggests that increasing political engagement and political education may help to inoculate American society against conspiracy movements.
  • Finally, this research provides a foundation on which to build predictive models to identify and target those Americans most susceptible to conspiracy beliefs.

By way of next steps, findings from this data collection will inform proprietary voter and audience models to support partners with defusing the rise of QAnon beliefs.