The QAnon conspiracy myth movement continues to thrive in the US and has even strengthened more than a year after Donald Trump left the White House, according to the largest ever study of its followers.
Some 22% of Americans believe that a “storm” is coming, 18% think violence might be necessary to save the country and 16% hold that the government, media and financial worlds are controlled by Satan-worshipping pedophiles, according to four surveys carried out out last year by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) think tank.
Each of these baseless and bizarre views is a core tenet of QAnon, an antisemitic internet conspiracy theory which held that Trump was waging a secret battle against a cabal of pedophiles and its “deep state” collaborators – a “storm” that would sweep them out of power.
Yet despite his election defeat by Joe Biden, major social media platforms banning QAnon activity and the disappearance of its leader, “Q”, the movement has not gone away. If anything, it has strengthened.
“The share of QAnon believers has increased slightly through 2021,” the report by the PRRI states. “In March, 14% of Americans were QAnon believers, compared to 16% in July, 17% in September, and 17% in October.
“The share of QAnon doubters has remained relatively steady (46% in March, 49% in July, 48% in September, and 49% in October), while the share of QAnon rejecters has decreased slightly from 40% in March to 35% in July, 35% in September, and 34% in October.”
These findings are based on 19,399 respondents from four surveys designed and conducted by the PRRI during 2021, using random samples of adults in all 50 states.
Natalie Jackson, research lead, said: “People who are susceptible to believing in these conspiracy theories are found in every demographic. It’s not just restricted to Republicans or the uneducated or those who are in a specific age group. It’s distributed throughout.
“Of course, there are some groups that are more prevalent than others, like there are many more Republicans than Democrats, but we do find that people in every demographic find these wild conspiracies believable.”
Among the discernible patterns, about one in five QAnon believers identify as white evangelical Protestants, and QAnon believers are significantly less likely than all Americans to have college degrees.
Media consumption is the strongest independent predictor of being a QAnon believer. Americans who most trust rightwing news outlets such as the One America News Network and Newsmax are nearly five times more likely than those who most trust mainstream news to be QAnon believers. Those who most trust Fox News are about twice as likely as those who trust mainstream news to be QAnon believers.
They generally have positive views of the Republican party and negative views of Democrats, with 68% agreeing in the October survey that “the Democratic Party has been taken over by socialists”.
Some 26% of QAnon believers have a favorable view of Biden while 69% have unfavorable views of him. About 63% have a favorable opinion of Trump but 31% have an unfavorable view of the former president who once claimed that QAnon followers “love our country” and “like me very much”.
Seven in 10 QAnon believers agree with the false statement that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, including just under half who completely agree. These individuals are also most likely to blame leftwing groups such as antifa for the US Capitol insurrection on 6 January 2021 (there is no organized antifa organization).
Jackson said: “These are people who believe that their culture is under attack, their way of life is under attack, so a lot of them do align with the Trump philosophies. According to those theories, Trump was supposed to be their leader.
“One of the things that’s somewhat impressive is even with Trump out of power, and the fact that January 6 was not ‘the storm’ that they thought it might be, these beliefs have persisted.”
Around eight in 10 QAnon believers agree with the statement that America is in danger of losing its culture and identity. More than seven in 10 say the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life, or that the American way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence.
And 32% of QAnon believers agree with the statement that “the idea of America where most people are not white bothers me”.
In late 2021, about one in 10 Americans (9%) agreed it might be necessary to commit an act of violence to save the country. QAnon believers (17%) and QAnon doubters (11%) were more likely than QAnon rejecters (4%) to share this view.