From Hype Cynics to Extreme Believers: Typologizing the Swiss Population’s COVID-19-Related Conspiracy Beliefs, Their Corresponding Information Behavior, and Social Media Use
Conspiracy theories have received an increasing amount of public and scholarly attention. In these accounts, individuals with conspiracy beliefs are sometimes described as a homogeneous and deviant, even pathological group of people supporting elaborate conspiracy theories, informing themselves in “alternative” and social media, and actively disseminating their views via such platforms to others. This article differentiates this perception. Through the conceptual lens of conspiracy beliefs and based on a national online survey about the Swiss population’s perceptions of the COVID-19 pandemic (n = 1,072), we use latent class analysis (LCA) to reconstruct six distinct groups of individuals that all harbor conspiracy beliefs, but to different degrees and in different ways, ranging from Extreme Believers over Lingering Believers to Hype Cynics. Compared with the rest of the population, many of these groups inform themselves more often online and on social media, and segments with higher degrees of conspiracy beliefs in particular use social media often to disseminate their views.
conspiracy theories, conspiracy beliefs, COVID-19, social media, survey research, segmentation analysis