Populist Attitudes and Conspiracy Beliefs: Exploring the Relation Between the Latent Structures of Populist Attitudes and Conspiracy Beliefs


  • Clara Christner


Despite the alleged affinity between populism and conspiracy theories, how they relate on the individual level remains relatively unknown. This study explores the relation between populist attitudes and conspiracy beliefs at the individual level. First, I test whether the conspiracist facets, which directly involve governmental participation, are associated with the dimensions of populist attitudes. Further, I examine the relation of political trust with the dimensions and facets of both constructs as well as their predictive power of the self-reported propensity to vote for a populist party. To test these assumptions, a cross-sectional study was conducted in Germany. Confirmatory factor analyses indicate a strong association between conspiracist facets that directly involve governmental participation and the anti-elitism and sovereignty dimensions of populist attitudes. Findings further show that low political trust is related to all dimensions of populist attitudes–especially anti-elitism–and to the conspiracist facets. Furthermore, the sovereignty dimension of populist attitudes and low political trust predict the propensity to vote for the right-wing populist party AfD. These findings provide new insights to a more nuanced understanding of populism on the individual level and the relation to conspiracy beliefs.