The inspiration behind this column came from my liberal family freaking out over yet another poll showing Trump voters supporting something horrible. The nature of polling is such that if you ask a question a certain way, you can influence the answers. That’s a big part of what Public Policy Polling does. It’s an unabashed liberal outlet who frequently asks Republicans questions designed to get news outlets to write “CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT REPUBLICANS BELIEVE X!?!?!?!” type-stories. For example, they found that 45% of Trump voters actually would approve of Trump if he shot someone in the middle of 5th avenue. This is clearly an unsettling result, but it’s also the type of question that elicits a defiant answer as much as an honest one. For the purposes of this list, we will rely on them as little as possible, as they are a category to themselves in this space. We could create a list twice this size with crazy examples just from their polling alone.
Polling is an inexact science, and you need a lot of them to come to any firm determination, largely because of the randomness associated with polling random folks, and the fact that people will not always give consistent answers to pollsters. The repeated shocking results out of PPP demonstrate that when you go looking for an answer, you usually find it. Some of these examples likely fall into that category, but others are a bit more sinister. Here are fifteen examples of how at least 20% of Americans will believe a wide range of crazy.
1. Climate Change
As of May this year, thirty percent of respondents to a joint Yale and George Mason University poll believe that our climate is warming completely on its own, which is almost a zanier stance to take than the climate is not warming at all. Look around folks, cars and factories have repercussions.
2. George W. Bush’s Legacy
Lost in all the weird yearning from the left for our nation’s nicest war criminal to return, is the natural result of his administration’s lies about Iraq. In 2007, a New York Times poll found that one third of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks, despite a literal mountain of evidence to the contrary.
3. Sexual Orientation is a Choice
Despite the fact that these very same people make life hell for LGBTQ folks, these de facto bigots believe that everyone chooses this path. A pew poll shows that 42% of Americans believe that homosexuals choose their orientation. There is no silver lining here. This is just supremely depressing.
4. Galileo is Rolling Over in his Grave
As of 2014, the National Science Foundation found that one in four Americans believes that the sun revolves around the Earth. I know that we suck at science, but come on people. You’re literally centuries behind.
5. Retirement Is Hard
The Consumer Federation of America and the Financial Planning Association found that 20% of Americans are counting on winning the lottery to help save for retirement. This is both incredibly depressing and enraging. It demonstrates the hopelessness that late-stage capitalism has created, as well as the lack of creativity of those forced to consider new ways to keep themselves alive.
6. Aliens Are Real
A National Geographic survey showed that three-quarters of Americans believe there is indisputable evidence that aliens have already visited Earth. Count me as part of that 75%—which is to say that I’m not mocking Americans in these blurbs (OK, some like the LGBTQ one I definitely am, fuck you if you believe that’s a choice)—this is an exercise to demonstrate how American minds are geared towards conspiratorial thinking.
7. Intelligent Design
This is one of the all-time marketing victories. Christians in America rebranded “God just clicked the lights on and we were here as we are now” to “intelligent design.” A Gallup poll from this year revealed that 38% of Americans believe that God created humans as we are presently constructed, which means that centuries-old cave drawings depicting us more hunched over must have been the original fake news. The good news? Thirty-eight percent is an all-time low.
8. The Birther Bullshit
Like our last Republican president, our current one has tied a large part of his legacy to a complete and utter fabrication. Like GOP voters last decade, the present crop lapped up this nonsense, en route to only 25% of Republicans believing that Obama was born in the United States, per an NBC poll released last year.
9. Bigfoot is as Real as the Big Bang
A Washington Post survey from 2014 revealed that just over 20% of Americans believe that Bigfoot is a real, tangible creature. This is roughly the same amount of people who believe in the Big Bang.
10. Inception Is Also Real
That same WaPo poll found that nearly 60% of Americans believe that dreams predict the future.
11. The Illuminati? They’re Real Too
Public Policy Polling was incredibly active during the Obama presidency, as Republicans seemed liable to believe anything negative about our first African American president. One result from their fishing expedition is that as of 2013, 28% of voters believe that a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda are conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government. If you’re wondering where Alex Jones gets his listeners, well, there ya go.
12. Americans LOVE the Paranormal
A Harris poll from 2013 revealed that 26% of Americans believe in witchcraft, which helps explain how this happened.
13. Vaccines are Bad
The new war on science has centered on vaccines. Despite the fact that no one has met an American with polio in over half a century, vaccines’ efficacy has been seriously questioned, and a 2014 JAMA study showed that 20% of Americans believe that “doctors and government still want to vaccinate children even though they know these vaccines cause autism and other psychological disorders.”
14. Cell Phones Cause Cancer
Despite there being literally no evidence for this, that same study reveals that 20% of Americans believe that “health officials know that cell phones cause cancer but are doing nothing to stop it because large corporations won’t let them.” Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate, gave credence to this theory by saying “we should not be subjecting kids’ brains” to WiFi. If we lived in a just society, she would have been forced to drop the “Dr.” at the front of her name the moment she finished that sentence.
15. What Really Is America Anyway?
We’ll end with a depressing fact that demonstrates how little we care to learn about our own history. How the hell are we supposed to have a nuanced discussion about confederate monuments (given that most of them were built during Jim Crow and the push for the Civil Rights Act in order to remind African Americans who was boss), when a Marist survey revealed that 23% of Americans have absolutely no clue who we won our independence from? Incorrect responses ranged from France to Japan to Mexico. God help us all.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.