Rasmussen released a new survey about conspiracy theories this week. The most interesting news in it is that only 32 percent of the people polled believe more than one shooter was involved in the death of John F. Kennedy, with 45 percent rejecting the idea. That marks a shift from Rasmussen's last report on the subject, which had the conspiracy believers narrowly outnumbering the nonbelievers, 37 percent to 36 percent. (I should note that the two surveys phrased the question differently, with this year's query specifically asking about multiple gunmen while the earlier poll referred more broadly to "a conspiracy.")
The new total is even more striking if you compare it to other pollsters' data. Rasmussen aside, last year's surveys showed somewhere between 51 and 61 percent of the country endorsing a Kennedy conspiracy theory. In years past, the total has hit 80 percent. It has almost never been less than half, and you'd have to go back to the '60s to find a result where the conspiracists didn't even manage to muster a plurality.
Last year I suggested that the decreasing popularity of these theories reflects the public's fading memories: If the assassination doesn't loom as large as it used to, the drive to explain it won't be as intense. I'll be interested to see if other pollsters find comparably low results in the future.
Among the other findings in this week's Rasmussen study:
• 24 percent believe the U.S. government knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks. That's more truthers than a Public Policy Polling survey found last year but less than a Scripps Howard poll from 2006.
• 14 percent say the Moon landing was faked. For more on this subject, see xkcd.
• 8 percent do not believe William Shakespeare wrote the plays that bear his byline. That doesn't sound like many, but Rasmussen says that "when you add the 36% who aren't sure, it's clear there's sizable doubt about the authorship of 'Hamlet,' 'Macbeth' and the others." Alternately, those 36 percent just might not be certain who Shakespeare is.
• 3 percent believe Paul McCartney was killed and replaced by an imposter. This total is low enough to fit within the margin of trolling.
Bonus link: The inevitable plug for my book on the subject.