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Right-Wing Populism in the United States: The Intersection of Conspiracy Theories and Mainstream Political Thought Public Deposited

On January 6, 2021, conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic culminated in the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building by right-wing insurrectionists. This paper examined the aftermath of those attacks by exploring the correlation between right-wing, national politicians’ rhetoric and the beliefs of individuals from Altoona, Pennsylvania, a small town in the Rust Belt of the United States. To study these phenomena, this paper used a two-pronged methodology of first qualitative social media research of tweets posted by Donald Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsey Graham, and second a quantitative survey of beliefs of residents of Altoona. The sampled tweets from the weeks before, during, and after the 2020 election, as well as the week of January 6, 2021, revealed trends in the propagation of conspiracy theories around the election and the pandemic, especially in tweets written by populists Trump and Greene. These tweets correlated the propagation of conspiracy theories in tweets and whether these four right-wing politicians were identified as populists. Furthermore, the survey yielded polarizing results that contribute to the current literature about a subset of populist followers who are highly educated and present low levels of trust in the government. Overall, this paper attempts to identify trends in beliefs among one ardent Republican base, and in right-wing populist politicians’ rhetoric, that correlate to a continued intersection of conspiracy theories and mainstream political thought in the United States.

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