They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, American Conspiracy Theories, and reported the following:
As political scientists, we'd be a lot more comfortable with people getting a more representative impression of our work – say a larger or truly random sample – but as over-scheduled regular people like everyone else, page 99 is probably fair enough. On that page, we're addressing the most incendiary issue of the work: how conspiracy theorists view violence. One of the major reasons we went into the topic was out of concern with the damage that conspiracy theorists do, and there's no doubt that proponents of conspiracy theories have killed millions (e.g. Hitler, Stalin).Learn more about American Conspiracy Theories at the Oxford University Press website.
Yet we hope one of the major qualities of the work is that it's careful social science. It's easy to tar people with the Hitler brush but much harder to determine whether conspiracy theories are a cause of behavior or a cover story to justify what violent people would do anyway. To try to shed some light on the issue, we surveyed Americans for their thoughts on gun control, using violence against the government, and using violence to stop politically extreme groups. On p. 99, we report the findings and try to put them in context. The bottom line is that people most prone to believing in conspiracy theories, which may or may not turn out to be true (we take no position in the book), are significantly more inclined toward violence. Yet almost none of them act on it, and conspiracy theories may only be a weak predictor, sort of like depression, for those who later act violently.
From page 99:The good news is that massive majorities object to violence, and the kind of violence we are concerned with here, politically motivated violence, is a miniscule fraction of all violence.
Still, those with stronger conspiratorial predispositions are more likely to be inclined toward violent action. Sixteen percent of those high on the conspiracy dimension agree with the statement: “violence is sometimes an acceptable way to express disagreement with the government.” This is in contrast to 11 percent and 6 percent of lows and mediums, respectively (see Figure 4.20). Eighty percent of those low on the conspiracy dimension disagree with the statement than violence is sometimes an acceptable way to express disagreement with the government while only 59 percent of those high on the conspiracy dimension do.
The same pattern holds when respondents are asked to express agreement with the use of “violence as an acceptable way to stop politically extreme groups in our country from doing harm.” Twenty-one percent of the highly predisposed agree compared to 15 percent of the medium and low. And 56 percent of those low on the conspiracy dimension disagree with the statement while 42 percent of those high on the conspiracy dimension disagree. But it is the extremists we should be most worried about. To inspect them more closely, we isolated the fifty people at the top and fifty people at the bottom of the conspiracy dimension.
Almost 20 percent of the high group says violence is an acceptable way to express disagreement with the government. This is more than double the less than 8 percent of the low group that does. Only 53 percent of the high group disagrees with the use of violence for this reason while 82 percent of the low group does.
It might sound reassuring that not even 20 percent of the fifty most predisposed respondents say violence is an acceptable way to express disagreement with the government. But regard these results warily; there are a number of limitations to the data. Surveys are suggestive, and they cannot reveal who will actually resort to violence. The most eager to utilize force are the least likely to submit to a survey or answer honestly on this score. There are so few people who view violence as acceptable in our sample that we cannot glean much about them as a group. The survey is designed to measure preferences, not preference intensity, and intensity is important when talking about violent proclivities. So is the permissiveness of the domestic context. If only one percent of the population agreed with the statement strongly enough to take forceful action, there would be blood in the street daily.