Pizzagate: The Conspiracy Theory That Some Want to Keep Believing In

An Economist/YouGov poll asks some questions about conspiracy theories.

After Edgar Maddison Welch‘s decision to “self-investigate” the Pizzagate conspiracy theory led to a multi-state road trip, the firing of a rifle inside a pizza place full of non-trafficked families, and an arrest and federal charges for Welch, you would think, if you were inclined toward rational thinking, that maybe this was the beginning of the end for Pizzagate. After all, a believer himself found nothing. But that’s not how conspiracies work.

Michael Flynn Jr. still believed. Edgar Maddison Welch himself still believed, choosing not to rely on what he saw with his own eyes, telling The New York Times:

“The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent,” he said. However, he refused to dismiss outright the claims in the online articles, conceding only that there were no children “inside that dwelling.”

And, according to a Economist/YouGov poll poll that was taken after Welch’s quixotic caper, 38 percent of respondents said that Pizzagate or, as the poll described it, “leaked email from some of Hillary Clinton’s campaign staffers contained code words for pedophilia, human trafficking and satanic ritual abuse” is either definitely (9 percent) or probably (29 percent) true. Broken down by Clinton vs. Trump voters, 17 percent of those who voted for Clinton say it’s definitely or probably true, compared to 46 percent of Trump voters. Broken down by party ID, 24 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of Independents, and 49 percent of Republicans who say Pizzagate is definitely or probably true.

You could say this is a very American tradition, with Americans acting on, to horrifying results, their Satan-based fears since at least the Salem witch trials of the 17th century, and in our more recent past, the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Then as now, real lives are harmed by those who continue to believe that hocusy pocusy transgressors are out there.

You can check out the poll and its 127 questions, just some of which are about conspiracy theories, here.