That's the conclusion University of Illinois journalism professor Stephanie Craft and her research colleagues reached in a study being published next month in the journal Communication and the Public.
The researchers surveyed nearly 400 participants online in spring 2016 to gauge how their news media literacy -- measured as a combination of news media knowledge and psychological traits connected with processing news messages -- might relate to their endorsement of conspiracy theories.
Researchers - Individuals - Credence - Conspiracy - Theories
The researchers found that "individuals who give credence to conspiracy theories know comparatively little about how the news media work." They also found that "the greater one's knowledge about the news media -- from the kinds of news covered, to the commercial context in which news is produced, to the effects on public opinion news can have -- the less likely one will fall prey to conspiracy theories."
Craft believes their research is the first to make that connection. But what Craft found even more interesting, and encouraging, were findings that showed it applied even where conspiracy theories resonated with an individual's political beliefs.
Study - Participants - Strength - Belief - Conspiracy
The study asked participants about the strength of their belief in any of 10 conspiracy theories, split evenly between those associated with liberal and conservative perspectives. It also asked separate questions to determine participants' ideological beliefs.
The researchers found that liberals with higher news media literacy were less likely to believe any or all of the five liberal conspiracy theories -- among them that the federal government knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks beforehand, that Republicans stole the 2004 presidential election through voter fraud in Ohio, and that there's a link between childhood vaccines and autism.
Conservatives - News - Media - Literacy - Conspiracy
Likewise, conservatives with higher news media literacy were less likely to believe five conspiracy theories commonly associated with conservatives -- among them that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., that global warming...
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