Populist Gullibility: Conspiracy Theories, News Credibility, Bullshit Receptivity, and Paranormal Belief

J.W. van Prooijen*, T.C. Rodrigues, C. Bunzel, O. Georgescu, D. Komaromy, A.P.M. Krouwel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The present research examines the relationship between populist attitudes-that construe society as a struggle between the "corrupt elites" versus the "noble people"-and beliefs in unsubstantiated epistemic claims. We specifically sought to assess the often assumed link between conspiracy beliefs and populist attitudes; moreover, we examined if populist attitudes predict conspiracy beliefs in particular, or rather, credulity of unsubstantiated epistemic claims in general. Study 1 revealed that populist attitudes are robustly associated with conspiracy mentality in a large multination study, drawing samples from 13 European Union (EU) countries. Studies 2 and 3 revealed that besides conspiracy beliefs, populist attitudes also predict increased credulity of obscure and politically neutral news items (regardless of whether they were broadcasted by mainstream or alternative news sources), receptivity to bullshit statements, and supernatural beliefs. Furthermore, Study 3 revealed that these findings were mediated by increased faith in intuition. These studies support the notion of populist gullibility: An increased tendency of people who score high on populist attitudes to accept obscure or unsubstantiated epistemic claims as true, including nonpolitical ones.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1061-1079
Number of pages19
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number6
Early online date10 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • populist attitudes
  • conspiracy theories
  • gullibility
  • intuition
  • credulity


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