Significant minority of Irish people believe conspiracy theories, research shows

Polls found 59% of respondents believe most politicians ‘only care about the interests of the rich and powerful’

A significant minority of Irish people say they believe in conspiracy theories about a secret world government, scientists deceiving the public and experiments being carried out on people without their knowledge, according to research for the Electoral Commission.

The research was carried out before and after the recent referendums on family and care, which were overwhelmingly rejected by voters.

Two surveys, one via telephone and one online, were carried out by the polling company Red C among more than 1,000 voters each before the referendums, and a major face-to-face exit poll was carried out on the day of the vote among more than 3,000 voters by Ipsos B&A.

The results were released last week by the commission, the new State body overseeing elections and referendums. The surveys questioned voters on their attitudes to and their vote in the recent referendums, as well as on a wide variety of political and social topics.


Among these topics were voters’ attitudes to a series of well-known conspiracy theories. The results showed that a relatively large minority believed the false theories to be “definitely true” or “probably true”.

For example, asked about the statement “a small, secret group of people is responsible for making all major decisions in world politics”, 10 per cent of people said this was “definitely true”, with a further 24 per cent saying it was “probably true” and 20 per cent saying they were not sure. Almost a quarter (24 per cent) said it was definitely not true and a further 22 per cent said it was “probably not true”.

On the statement “groups of scientists manipulate, fabricate or suppress evidence in order to deceive the public”, 28 per cent said it was either definitely or probably true, with 45 per cent saying was definitely or probably not true.

Almost a quarter (24 per cent) said it was definitely or probably true that “experiments involving new drugs or technologies are routinely carried out on the public without their knowledge or consent”, while 52 per cent said this was probably or definitely untrue.

On the statement “Alternative medicine is effective in treating long-term illnesses”, 30 per cent said it was definitely or probably true with just 32 per cent saying it was definitely or probably untrue. Almost four in 10 (38 per cent) were unsure. More than a fifth of voters (21 per cent) said it was definitely or probably true that the Covid-19 vaccine is unsafe and ineffective, while 60 per cent said this was definitely or probably untrue.

The research also shows that voters have a generally low opinion of politicians.

Almost seven in 10 (69 per cent) respondents agreed that “most people who run for office are generally interested in their own importance, power and the perks of office” while 59 per cent agree that “most politicians only care about the interests of the rich and powerful”.

More than six in 10 (61 per cent) agreed that “the people, and not the politicians, should make our most important policy decisions”. On immigration, 62 per cent agreed that “there should be very strict limits on the number of immigrants coming to live in Ireland”, but almost as many (57 per cent) stated that “immigrants are good for Ireland’s economy”.

Just 26 per cent agree with the statement “asylum seekers should have the same rights to social services as Irish people”, with almost half (48 per cent) disagreeing and 24 per cent expressing no opinion.

On current politics, a majority (54 per cent) said the Government is doing a “poor job” but a significant minority (39 per cent) say it’s doing a good job.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times