Government-Corroborated Conspiracies: Motivating Response to (and Belief in) a Coordinated Crime

Calfano, Brian Robert
PS: Political Science & Politics

Accusations of conspiracy are nothing new in American politics, but examples in which the government—usually cast as a key player in conspiracy theories—goes on record to corroborate that a conspiracy occurred are rare. I leveraged an experiment that randomly exposes both college-student and general-public subject pools to information about the 1979 House Select Committee on Assassination report of a probable conspiracy in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I find that those exposed to government corroboration of a conspiracy (1) are more prone to anger in response to the government report; (2) engage in an increased search of available media information about the assassination; and (3) are more likely to agree with the conclusion of a conspiracy in Kennedy’s murder. Implications for additional research about government pronouncements on controversial issues and follow-on public reaction also are discussed.