One-in-five English people believe COVID is a Jewish conspiracy - survey

One in five Britons believe that Jews created COVID-19 to collapse the economy for financial gain, a press release linked to a a survey by Oxford University showed.

The finding came as part of a wider survey in attitudes toward the virus and the measures taken to prevent its spread, which found that there was a strong undercurrent of mistrust over official advice on the virus within the British public. Those who were skeptical were also less likely to comply with measures such as social distancing.

The Oxford Coronavirus Explanations, Attitudes, and Narratives Survey (OCEANS), published in the journal Psychological Medicine, surveyed 2,500 adults who were representative of the English population according to age, gender, region, and income, on their attitudes toward the government narrative on coronavirus, and related conspiracy theories.

It found that 5.3% said that they “agree a little,” 6.8% said that they “agree moderately,” 4.6% said that they “agree a lot,” and 2.4% said that they “agree completely” with the statement "Jews have created the virus to collapse the economy for financial gain."

Some 80.8% did not agree with it at all.

Similar figures were recorded for conspiracy theories involving other groups: while 80.1% of respondents did not agree with the statement "Muslims are spreading the virus as an attack on Western values," 19.9% did to some extent, including 2.4% who agreed completely.

More than a quarter of respondents thought that "celebrities are being paid to say that they have coronavirus," and that politicians, for example the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, "have faked having coronavirus."

Nearly half of respondents (45.4%) believed to some extent that "coronavirus is a bio-weapon developed by China to destroy the West."

"There is a fracture: most people largely accept official COVID-19 explanations and guidance; a significant minority do not," said the study's lead author Daniel Freeman, a professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford, in a release.

"The potential consequences, however, affect us all," he continued. "The details of the conspiracy theories differ, and can even be contradictory, but there is a prevailing attitude of deep suspicion. The epidemic has all the necessary ingredients for the growth of conspiracy theories, including sustained threat, exposure of vulnerabilities, and enforced change. The new conspiracy ideas have largely built on previous prejudices and conspiracy theories. The beliefs look to be corrosive to our necessary collective response to the crisis. In the wake of the epidemic, mistrust looks to have become mainstream."

Overall, some 60% of those asked believe to some extent that the government is misleading the public about the cause of the virus, and 40% believe that the virus has been deliberately spread by powerful people to gain control. 20% believed at least somewhat that the virus is a hoax.

These findings correlate with how prepared people are to comply with the measures put in place to hinder the spread of the disease, with those who doubt the government narrative less likely to, for example, stay at home, not meet with people outside their household, or stay 2 meters apart from others when outside. They are also less likely to accept a vaccination, take a diagnostic test, or wear a facemask, according to Prof. Freeman.

The survey comes shortly after NGO Hope Not Hate published a similar survey of their own, conducted between February and April 2020, which found that 13% of Britons believe that Jews have “undue control of banks,” while a substantial 38% said they "couldn't say for sure" or "didn't know."

The press release noted "while conspiracy theories do not inherently have to be antisemitic, it is remarkable how often Jewish people are explicitly or implicitly identified as the conspirators” and that “it is antisemitic ideas, more so than any other form of racism, that form the basis of modern conspiracy theories.”

Dr Sinéad Lambe, a clinical psychologist who worked on the more recent Oxford study, noted: "Conspiracy thinking is not isolated to the fringes of society and likely reflects a growing distrust in the government and institutions. Conspiracy beliefs arguably travel further and faster than ever before. Our survey indicates that people who hold such beliefs share them; social media provides a ready-made platform."

Source: Jpost