Governments and key institutions have had to implement decisive responses to the danger posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Imposed change will increase the likelihood that alternative explanations take hold. In a proportion of the general population there may be strong scepticism, fear of being misled, and false conspiracy theories.

The objectives of this survey were to estimate the prevalence of conspiracy thinking about the pandemic and test associations with reduced adherence to government guidelines. The survey was conducted in May 2020 as a non-probability online survey with 2501 adults in England, quota sampled to match the population for age, gender, income, and region.

Approximately 50% of this population showed little evidence of conspiracy thinking, 25% showed a degree of endorsement, 15% showed a consistent pattern of endorsement, and 10% had very high levels of endorsement. Higher levels of coronavirus conspiracy thinking were associated with less adherence to all government guidelines and less willingness to take diagnostic or antibody tests or to be vaccinated. Such ideas were also associated with

  • paranoia,
  • general vaccination conspiracy beliefs,
  • climate change conspiracy belief,
  • a conspiracy mentality, and distrust in institutions and professions.

Holding coronavirus conspiracy beliefs was also associated with being more likely to share opinions.

The authors concluded that, in England, there is appreciable endorsement of conspiracy beliefs about coronavirus. Such ideas do not appear confined to the fringes. The conspiracy beliefs connect to other forms of mistrust and are associated with less compliance with government guidelines and greater unwillingness to take up future tests and treatment.

The authors also state that the coronavirus conspiracy ideas ascribe malevolent intent to individuals, groups, and organisations based on what are likely to be long-standing prejudices. For instance, almost half of participants endorsed to some degree the idea that ‘Coronavirus is a bioweapon developed by China to destroy the West’ and around one-fifth endorsed to some degree that ‘Jews have created the virus to collapse the economy for financial gain’.

The survey did not include questions about so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). This is a great shame, in my view. We know from previous research that people who adhere to conspiracy theories feel strongly that SCAM is being suppressed via some sinister complot by the establishment. Moreover, we know that SCAM enthusiasts tend to believe in vaccination conspiracy theories. One might therefore expect that proponents of SCAM are also prone to conspiracy beliefs about coronavirus.

When reading some of the comments on this blog, I have little doubt that this is, in fact, the case.

40 Responses to Coronavirus conspiracy beliefs, mistrust, and compliance with government guidelines

  • Looks like any trust in this piece of garbage is misguided?

    What kind of response is expected when the first question in it reads:

    “The government is misleading the public about _the cause of the virus._”??

    To which I would have asked the questionnaire item designer back: Well, if any government would engage in “leading the public to ‘knowledge about what causes the virus” then YES, definitely.

    The items on that list are all in the same bullshit direction.

    “I don’t trust the information about the virus from scientific experts.” Oh, really?

    There are those ‘scientific experts’ who _can_ be trusted, and then there are a lot that cannot. How’s that position coded?
    They really want to get people to respond: “Nah, science-shmience, all not good for me”?

    On that position it would naturally be interesting to look for how trustworthy ‘experts’ are, like Fauci in US or Drosten in Germany. Starting the year with “masks don’t work, don’t wear them” only to reverse course with “yeah, _we lied to you_, but only because we didn’t have enough of ’em.” Or governments suddenly claiming that there was now ‘scientifically proven effectiveness of makeshift masks in a community setting’ (even with our governments nonsensical mandates)?

    Since you, Edzard, are a fan of evidence, is there even any for such mandate masks? And we all should know that there is none. Still. Still none. (Links? Do you prefer Oxford’s CEBM: masking evidence with politics. Or a nice little German piece from Kappstein piece: ?

    A special place in my heart is reserved for a proper bullshit study in the Lancet from Chu et al in June. Which is now cited as ‘new evidence’ when it is not; self-admitting that trust in results _should be_ “very low”, and yet its numbers are in true garbage-ingarbage-out fashion used to calculate ‘modelling of spread with or without masks’?

    And what should we all think, according to those conspiracy hunters, when the WHO said about ‘contact tracing’ “Not recommended in any circumstances” ( yet those who install cameras on every street corner clamouring for such surveillance things loudly, urge people to install it, think about making such things mandatory and openly lie about its alleged effectiveness? “Protect yourself from the coronavirus and use this app”?

    What is this? Magical thinking as expressed in government campaigns? Of course this illness and the virus present a great opportunity for those jackboots to further their evergreen agenda. Does this make the spread of this virus a ‘deliberate attempt’? Improbable. But do those profiteering from it have a very skewed incentive to trump up the panic? Of course.

    Na nelly.

    There sure are some quite deranged minds out there. But describing them with that paper in any meaningful way was surely not accomplished. That paper is straight for the bin, in terms of quality. We see no science going into it nor any knowledge coming out of it. We see a political opinion maker piece.

    It’s a great pity that you seem to endorse it.

  • While infection rates were very low then Fauci was right to say that masks would not protect the wearer. The most likely contractees of Covid-19 were health workers so it was right and proper to prioritise them to prevent them infecting others. Your WHO quote is for flu not Covid-19.

    We’ll just put you in the conspiracy bucket

  • Amazing hubris from these govt flunkies. Were we to be considered crazy conspiracy theorists when the academic Ferguson told us that 2 million of the USA were predicted to die based on his crappy code? i dont remember his precise ridiculous numbers. Now we have to have the same faith in their bs? Big Tech has proudly told us that they are going to censor any viewpoints that dont follow the WHO guidelines. This is supposed to give us confidence in their bs? And you, dear Edzard, are the one telling us that we are supposed to use critical thinking? They height of hypocrisy!

  • This editorial from the BMJ 13/11 is a must read.
    Suggesting that there are vested interests and corruption among scientists and politicians is not apparently just the opinion of so called conspiracy theorists.

    Some on here may want to support this.

    • @Dendra
      Did you actually read the article?? If so you got it all backwards.

    • “This editorial from the BMJ 13/11 is a must read.”

      Absolutely! Did you read it yourself? If so, you might want to work on those skills.

    • @Dendra

      An interesting read for sure.

      “In the US, President Trump’s government manipulated the Food and Drug Administration to hastily approve unproved drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir.”

      However, what I say to that is this. To give approval to use already approved drugs such as Hydroxychloroquine (already approved for numerous indications for decades) , and Remdesivir (already approved for Ebola) for another indication is not the same as giving approval to an untested new drug. This is not beyond the scope of acceptable during such a crisis when nothing else is available …. no ?

  • Just thought that I would post a quote from the article.
    Just tell me what I am getting backwards?

    Quote from BMJ editorial
    ‘The UK’s pandemic response relies too heavily on scientists and other government appointees with worrying competing interests, including shareholdings in companies that manufacture covid-19 diagnostic tests, treatments, and vaccines.’

  • Following on from the recent BMJ editorial we now have another article to consider.
    This one in the JAMA focuses on the illegal activities from BigPharma.
    I would have been called a conspiracy theorist a year ago for stating the conclusions of these recent JAMA and BMJ articles. Now I am just quoting research.

    • 1) at least, in conventional medicine, experts are exposing fraud; in SCAM, this happens very rarely
      2) editorials are not research, they are opinion pieces.

    • So what’s your point? Crimes committed underneath the umbrella of modern medicine neither invalidate modern medicine nor justify nor excuse the crimes committed by AltMed, which is nothing but.

      Doctor Harold Shipman murdered over 200 elderly patients before he was caught and imprisoned, but that does not make me fear going to the GP’s myself. Repeat scammer and abuser of autistic kids Andrew Wakefield ran unchecked for 10 long, damaging years before the GMC finally stripped him of his right to practise medicine… and where is he now? A doyen of the AltMed world, worshipped and adored by many thousands, and still perpetrating his abuses with their full undying support.

      Seems to me that modern medicine needs more rigorous monitoring and regulation, and faster, more decisive action wherever malfeasance is found. I think you’d find many of its practitioners would agree with that as well. Just as they’d agree that none of this is new news, and has been true of medicine—as of any human system—for as long as it’s existed.

      So why don’t you now tell us what AltMed needs, since you obviously disagree with what we think it needs, as evidenced by your childish deflections.

  • I am sure that we can rely on Edzard to continue to monitor CAM.
    Those levels of fraud stated in the JAMA are either true or not true.
    If they are true and not unevidenced conspiracy theory then there will be huge consequences surely?
    Or do we all just turn a blind eye and concentrate on CAM?

    • you are right: there are bigger scandals that those in SCAM.


      … this bolg is on SCAM.

      • I find myself highly amused at the sight of Dendra crying foul on politicians who won’t stay in their lanes, only in her next breath to whine twice as hard about Prof Ernst staying so dilligently in his.

        Really, what in the six-sided world do these AltMedders have as self-awareness? Pink blancmange?

    • Pray tell us: if CAMsters around the world had their way and modern medicine was replaced with CAM, would the levels of fraud then be less or greater than before?

      Modern medicine knows it’s not complete or perfect, which is why it puts considerable effort into self-checking and self-correcting and generally improves itself over time. What do you offer humanity in its place? Religious devotion, special-pleading, and apologetics, and an absolute confidence that if you never acknowledge your failures then those failures don’t exist? A sucker’s deal by any measure I’d have thought, but apparently you know better.

      So, hey, do let us know when the Journal of Homeopathy and the rest of the AltMed rags start posting scathing indictments of their own house on par with that BMJ editorial you now so fondly clutch. We look forward to seeing it; we just won’t hold our breath.

      • Casual observers of CON-medicine like @has believe that it is self-correcting. That is a myth when serious money is involved. In reality it is a cesspool of corruption because of the huge amounts of money involved. Big pharma has bought off the medical profession, the media, the governing bodies and the govt regulators. They invented regulatory capture. The final frontier is to make “biologicals” (i.e. vaccines) mandatory which big pharma is diligently working on. They are for the most part liability free in the USA which means they cant even be regulated by the courts and aren’t subject to disclosure.

        As a matter of fact, homeopathy is continually debating methods of practice. We wont hold our breaths while we wait for the So-called Skeptics to actually learn anything about homeopathy beyond “its too dilute.”

  • You jump to conclusions has.
    I have never suggested that CAM should replace conventional medicine.
    That is your delusion.
    I have simply pointed out a few trends which could eventually result in significant consequences for all. You are free to ignore if you like.

    You are welcome to your six sided world of pink blancmange though.
    That sounds nice.

    • “I have never suggested that CAM should replace conventional medicine.”

      And that is not what I said. Which you would know if you worked on your reading skills as I encouraged you before.

      But what do you think is the natural end point of unchecked evangelical CAM propagation? Because we already know how religious acolytes—from Christians to Maoists—begin to behave once they’ve achieved sufficient mass and power to redefine reality to support themselves. There is nothing new under history, and even less that’s as special as it thinks itself to be.

      You champion CAM. Yet CAM cannot exist in the same universe as science-based medicine without at least one of them lying their face off. So how do you resolve that intractable contradition?

      Tell us, and while you do so do please try to remember that people’s actual lives are on the line. This is a far bigger and more important issue than you satiating your personal ego (or me, mine). Real people die if you get it wrong. (Of course, they die too even if you get it right, but at not nearly [we hope] the same volume or enthusiasm.) And with seven billion of us already on this rock and more on their way in the near future, that’s the potential for a torrent of death which ought to provide pause to all but the most ardent narcissist or sociopath. So let us see where you truly stand; or are you just going to weasel and evade forever?

  • Unchecked CAM and science propagation is not a great idea. Edzard et al helps check out CAM. Many others though now are checking out elements of science with regard to self and vested interests. About time too.

    • And yet CAM perseveres despite being it the most blatantly obvious of frauds. Almost as if it should be subject to much higher standards of legal regulation and censure than a single retired competent Professor of CAM studies can ever possibly provide. (Or are you saying our Professor Ernst can clear tall buildings in a single stride?)

      So while we’re updating and retightening all those regulatory standards that already apply conventional medicine, why don’t we just apply those same standards across all CAM as well while we’re at it?

  • ‘One man’s fraud is another man’s medicine’ has.
    We all make our choices in life and often this is based on personal experiences .

    • Horseshite. If it works, it’s medicine. If it doesn’t work but claims that it does, it’s fraud.

      This is all objectively testable too; it does not need your insipid po-mo opinions and pathetic special pleadings.

      Still, congrats to you on proving what we already pretty well knew was the case: that you’re a hollow vessel, and all this smug superior incessant whining of yours is just the sound wind makes as it whistles between your ears.

      • What is your definition of “working” medicine? Taking a drug to suppress symptoms and suffering serious side effects for the rest of your life? Wait til you get to that point in your life when they have you on 6-12 drugs. You might rethink your worship of CON-Med.

        • I’m already on two drugs for the rest of my life. And if I weren’t, I’d already be dead.

          Real medicine’s neither complete nor perfect, but I’d far rather take medications that at least enable me to live with a chronc incurable illness than be more dead w-nk fodder to your religious delusions. That’s my informed choice; where’s yours?

          • Incidentally, my amazing lovely sister just got sent home from hospital yesterday after undergoing emergency surgery on Sunday for a twisted bowel. But, y’know, Big Allopathic Medicine BAAAAAD.

            So why don’t you tell us what your Wholesome Homeopathic Cure for her symptoms is?

            Because while I may have flunked medschool even I know what “rest of your life” means once the gangrene sets it.

        • Would that I could limit it to 12 drugs…

          However, without them I would not be here. They have all been carefully thought about, and each one has a clear role

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