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17 days ago
From Flat Earth to Bigfoot: The Most Prevalent Conspiracy Theories in Canada
Conspiracy theories used to be reserved for the loner on the corner who may or may not be wearing a tinfoil hat. They didn’t play much of a role in our daily lives.
But now, with the Internet and social media creating a rapid pathway for information to spread like never before, more and more people buy into conspiracy theories…and with the U.S. federal government now openly discussing UFOs, it’s hard not to think seriously about some of the “wild” things we hear.
We wanted to know how this shift in the conspiracy narrative is affecting people’s daily lives, relationships, and society as a whole throughout Canada.
Are Conspiracy Theories Harming Society?
More than two-thirds of Canadians believe that conspiracy theories and the rate at which information is spread are actively harming society. Only 32% believe they have no substantial effect.
This is interesting because, when asked about how conspiracy theories are affecting daily life, it wasn’t very clear that they are much at all.
Just 9% of our survey respondents said that conspiracy theories affected their relationships.
And about 22% of those people said conspiracies affect their interactions with other people in a positive way.
Conspiracy theories run deep, though, and an inability to change our opinions about them could be part of the problem.
About half (54%) of Canadians said they’ve changed their minds about conspiracies when they saw evidence to dispute them.
That means that just under half remain convinced of aliens, government cover-ups, and mind control experiments even when evidence suggests that the theory is incorrect. That seems a little dangerous.
More Than 60% of Canadians Buy Into Conspiracy Theories
That’s right: 61% of all Canadians we surveyed believed in at least one conspiracy theory.
And the place most of those residents got their information? Social media.
Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube—all user generated content—provide 62% of conspiracy theorists in Canada with the information they deem as proof of a conspiracy.
It seems clear that social media is the primary reason conspiracy theories are on the rise, as the next most prevalent sources that fuel conspiracy theorists are traditional media and digital media, each accounting for just 10%.
“The Earth Is Flat” Is The Most Commonly Accepted Conspiracy Theory
Flat Earthers prevail, with their theory being the most widely accepted in three provinces:
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
Despite the nearly unlimited scientific evidence that the Earth is round, “flat earth” is still the most commonly accepted conspiracy theory in Canada.
Three other conspiracy theories are a close second as they are most popular in two provinces each:
- Alien abductions are real, most popular in British Columbia and Ontario
- Bigfoot is real, most popular in Northwest Territories and Nunavut
- Yetis are real, most popular in Prince Edward Island and Yukon Territory
Wrapping Up: Why Conspiracies Matter
Conspiracy theories can be fun to talk about, but when you hear that more than 60% of all Canadians really believe in one of these ideas, things go from fun to potentially dangerous pretty quickly.
Spreading misinformation and disinformation—unintentionally vs. intentionally misleading people—can lead to political unrest, social injustice, and even injury and death.
Just consider the information that spread throughout Canada about the COVID-19 vaccine being intentionally harmful to recipients, and you suddenly have thousands of people getting sick just because of inaccurate information spreading on the internet.
And even more concerning: if people are willing to believe that Bigfoot is hanging out in their backyard, what else will they see in a Facebook post and take as gospel truth?
We surveyed 1,000 Canadian residents in July 2023, with an average age of 35, about their experiences with and beliefs in conspiracy theories. A little over half (54%) of respondents were female, 43% were male, and 3% identified as non-binary. We also used Google Trends data from the previous 12 months to assess how often residents in different provinces searched for key conspiracy terms.
Our data and images are available to share for any and all non-commercial purposes. If you do share them, please link back to this page to give credit for the research, writing, and image creation.
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