One third of Swiss are prone to believing in conspiracy theories, according to a study run in 2019 by researchers at ETH University in Zurich.
Researchers at ETH Zurich’s department of delinquency and crime prevention questioned around 10,500 people (2,111 adults and 8,317 young people) in 2019 regarding their beliefs.
Survey takers were asked questions, such as whether they believed powerful secret organisations had a major influence on political decisions, and whether they thought politicians and other leaders were manipulated by dark forces.
Overall, roughly a third of those questioned were found to be prone to believing in conspiracy theories.
The strongest influencing factor was a lack of trust in political systems. Around half of those with low levels of trust in the political system were found to be prone to conspiracy theory belief. It appears that low trust in the social order and perceived powerlessness leads these people to find comfort and certainty in conspiracy theories. This tendency was found to be as prevalent among adults as it was among young people.
And while the study did not find a link between right-wing authoritarianism and conspiracy belief, it found that authoritarianism raises the chance of extremist attitudes and that conspiracy theories can reinforce these attitudes.
Among young people, perceived political powerlessness has less influence on conspiracy belief than it does for adults. However, the link between conspiracies and extremist attitudes is stronger among the young.
Young men appear to pose the greatest risk to society. They are more receptive to radical ideologies and feel they have less to lose because they are less plugged into society than adults, who typically have jobs and families.
The professor who led the research believes the number of people susceptible to these theories in Switzerland has likely increased since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The authors point out that the analysis does not establish cause and effect and the sample may not be representative.
ETH Zurich study (in German)