Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Donna Sullivan

Second Advisor

Markus Hadler

Third Advisor

Daniel Holbrook


This study investigates the public perceptions of conspiracy theories and the level and types of participation of those who believe such theories. It addresses the research questions of: (1) Under what conditions would a person speak openly about conspiracy, and under what conditions would they remain silent? (2) What are the social factors that draw a person into joining with others who believe a particular conspiracy has occurred? And (3) is there any relationship between a person's education and profession that would increase or hinder a conspiracist's visible participation of his or her beliefs? A total of thirty interviews were conducted, ten each in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the 9/11 site in New York City, and West Virginia. By using qualitative content analysis, data were analyzed and variations by demographic and socioeconomic status were noted. The theoretical perspective applied to the findings included critical conflict theories as well as Goffman's stigma. The findings confirm there are sociological implications for beliefs in conspiracy theories and suggest that negative social consequences can result in taking part in activities in which conspiracy theories are openly discussed.


Conspiracy theories.