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Popular Support for Geopolitical Conspiracy Theories in Russia's Neighboring States

Authors: Gerard Toal*, School of Public & International Affairs, Virginia Tech, National Capital Region, John O'Loughlin, University of Colorado, Boulder
Topics: Political Geography, Europe, Russia
Keywords: geopolitics, conspiracy theories
Session Type: Paper
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Conspiracy theorizing has long been central to practical and popular geopolitical reasoning. Yet it has not received sufficient systematic study and research. Rhetoric about ‘foreign plots’ and ‘hidden hands’ is commonplace in accounts of contentious eventful processes, most especially within states where great powers are intensely competing. But do ordinary people in such states, and contested de facto states, subscribe to the claims about geopolitical conspiracies by outside powers and local forces? This paper examines the dilemmas of theorizing conspiracist cognition in the geopolitical cultures of states caught in a zone of competition between Russia and the West. Drawing upon a large survey in late 2019, it presents research results on the adherence of residents of 12 states and contested regions (together representative samples n= 13500) neighboring the Russian Federation to generic conspiracy theories and specific conspiracy theory statements about the United States and Russia. It analyzes differences in conspiracy beliefs across a variety of socio-demographic, contextual and social psychological categories.

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