Recent approaches from social psychology lend support to conspiracy beliefs as a motivated form of social cognition, structured around and consistent with a higher-order belief system, which may have an impact on the way people understand their political environment and respond to it. Building on these accounts, this study examines the influence of conspiracism on political efficacy and, indirectly, on conventional and unconventional forms of political participation. Drawing on two-wave panel data collected in five democracies (United States, Japan, United Kingdom, Poland, and Estonia; n = 5,428), results suggest that individuals who hold conspiracy beliefs tend to regard the political system as less responsive to citizens’ demands – external dimension of political efficacy. We also found a less clear and country-specific effect of conspiracy beliefs on perceptions of being less equipped to partake in the political process – internal efficacy. Furthermore, conspiratorial beliefs negatively affect conventional modes of political participation, indirectly through reduced external efficacy. We finally examine group differences by country that suggest that both individual- and contextual-level factors may explain the observed pattern of influences. Our results emphasize the potential of currently widespread conspiratorial narratives to undermine attitudes and behaviours that lie at the heart of the democratic process.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology