Half of President Donald Trump’s supporters think that Democrats are involved in “elite child sex-trafficking rings,” a core belief of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Another 33% of Trumpers aren’t sure, and just 17% dismiss the baseless theory completely.
These are the findings of a new YouGov/Yahoo News poll, which was conducted after Trump refused to denounce QAnon during his NBC-hosted town hall last week. The conspiracy theory, which began on fringe websites in 2017, has gotten mainstream amplification in recent months via social media and dozens of Republican congressional candidates who openly support the movement.
A similar number of Trump supporters (52%) believe—as QAnon followers do—that the president is working to dismantle the sex-trafficking ring, with 37% unsure and just 11% dismissing the theory.
But perhaps the most telling statistic from the survey is that just 48% of Trump supporters have heard about QAnon, meaning that more Trump supporters believe in the core tenets of the conspiracy than have heard about it.
This startling stat speaks to the group’s success in spreading a so-called lighter version of QAnon during the pandemic, particularly targeting women on Facebook and Instagram.
The revelation is reinforced by the fact that of the Trump supporters who have heard of QAnon, just one in six (15%) think it’s true while nearly half (47%) of the Trump supporters who’ve heard of the conspiracy theory just aren’t sure what to make of it.
These QAnon-lite campaigns have been sparked in part because of efforts by social media platforms to claim down on QAnon and related hashtags. Last month, Q, the supposed anonymous leader of the group, posted a message telling followers to “deploy camouflage” by not mentioning QAnon directly in order to avoid social media bans.
Trump, who has retweeted Twitter accounts of QAnon followers over 250 times, was given a chance to disavow the group during the town hall event last week.
Instead, he claimed to “know nothing about QAnon” except that “they are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that.”
The survey found that three-quarters (74%) of his supporters thought this response was appropriate, while only 5% thought it was inappropriate.
Overall, 55% of registered voters said they have heard of QAnon, though supporters of Democratic nominee Joe Biden (69%) are more likely than Trump supporters (48%) to have heard of the conspiracy theory.
But while half of Trump’s supporters believed the claims made by QAnon supporters, the vast majority (82%) of Biden’s supporters don’t believe the conspiracy.