Why isn't there more female conspiracy theorists? Every article we read that attempts to define this niche group draws the same conclusion: conspiracy theorists are almost exclusively men - older gentlemen with a lot of time on their hands to research obscure things. We never really gave it much thought, but it does seem like more guys are into conspiracy. But we are not people to just take a blanket statement as fact, that would defeat the basis of conspiracy theory - right?! So we thought about it awhile and did some research and it's not an easy question to answer. We also find that there just might be a conspiracy within the media perception of conspiracy theorists.
Read on to find out.
Political Attitudes of Conspiracy Theorists
Our first thought was that many conspiracies center around politics, and women are not as interested in politics. Plenty of women we know avoid talking politics, where as men seem more willing to freely discuss their opinions on anything that makes the headlines. Not wanting to be sexist, we looked at some voting data and guess what? We were wrong. Women are more likely to vote.
According to one report, women are more likely to register to vote. Some 83.8 million women were registered to vote in 2016, compared to 73.8 million men. Women also vote in higher numbers than men and have done so in every election since 1964. In 2016, 9.9 million more women than men voted. That pretty much shoots down our theory, and proves you should look at the evidence before shooting off your mouth.
The issues of interest may vary, but women are as interested in politics, if not more, as men. According to the homepage for NOW (The National Organization for Women) the primary topics of political concern to women are Reproductive Rights and Justice, Economic Justice, Ending Violence Against Women, Racial Justice, LGBTQ Rights, and Constitutional Equality. Those are all important concerns and the subject of countless conspiracies.
Abortion is probably the topic most seen in the news today, and draws equal reaction from both men and women, regardless of race or economic prosperity. All of NOW's concerns are male concerns as well. We want our daughters, sisters, and wives to have the same constitutional protections as we do. It would seem, based on politics, that women and men would be just as likely to delve into conspiracy theory even if we have different outlooks on the topics.
When it comes to party affiliations, there isn't a lot of data that divides conspiracy people into Democrat versus Republican, but the most often sited theories include ones that call out the right: Obama's birth certificate, Alex Jones, global warming and climate change, Chemtrails, anti-vaccination, and political topics like President Trump and the Wall.
On the flip side, things which should be labeled as conspiracy theory - things like Russian collusion and the hunt for evidence against Trump, Hilary Clinton's emails, the suggestion that pro-life advocates are racists, etc. are reported as important news, not conspiracy, by mainstream media. This is despite the fact that as much evidence is available to support (or deny) the claims from the left as from the right. That in itself feels like collusion.
With our theory that women are politically dispassionate out the window, we looked for some data to see if anyone has measured how men men vs women are conspiracy theorists. We couldn't find anything concrete, but we did find a story from an atmospheric scientist named Marshall Shepard who studies weather and climate change for NASA. He opined that the people who challenge his research are usually white males over 50 years old. That's not exactly damning evidence, but does suggest that men are more willing to voice their opinion as we suspected.
Mental Health of Conspiracy Theorists
Now being labeled a "conspiracy theorist" isn't exactly the most flattering of terms. In fact, most every article we found on the subject of conspiracy theory is focused on the mental state of the believer. From what we have gathered, this supposed research is nothing more than an attempt to discredit anyone who questions the usual media source, labeling them as faith driven zealots who ignore the facts. So the suggestion is that conspiracy is a coping mechanism for dealing with things not understood, or which doesn't fit their limited worldview.
A study out of the University of Chicago called 'Conspiracy Theories and the Paranoid Style(s) of Mass Opinion' tried to measure the particular conspiracies that people believed in, and found that women ere more likely to to believe in Secret Cabals and the Paranormal, but the study didn't really seem to give much insight to the question - and is geared towards making conspiracy theorists look like crazies (notice that we italicized Paranoid in the study's name).
Another supposed study by Live Science surveyed 1,200 American adults to see if they agreed with generic conspiratorial statements, and focused on the 'personal factors' that drive conspiratorial beliefs. Their shocking conclusion: "one major predictor of conspiracy belief was "schizotypy" ... (a series) of traits that include a tendency to be relatively untrusting, ideologically eccentric and prone to having unusual perceptual experiences (e.g., sensing stimuli that are not actually present). The trait borrows its name from schizophrenia, but it does not imply a clinical diagnosis."
It may not be a diagnosis, but it sure sounds like an attempt to discredit anyone who thinks outside the box. Looking at some mental health data from the Recovery Research Institute, it seems that women are more likely than men to suffer from depression, anxiety and mood disorders. Men are more likely to have attention deficit issues, while women are more likely to have eating disorders. It's a small portion of the population that suffers from those conditions overall. Live Science stated that conspiracy belief is similar to schizophrenia, which effects 12 million men and 9 million women worldwide. The World Health Organization says that women are better able to function with the condition, but doesn't say why. Another study says that women make up the majority of late onset cases. So following this reasoning, younger men and older women would be most likely to be a conspiracy theorist if its related to schizophrenia.
We took a quick look at substance abuse data, just so that we could write it off as a factor. For the record, men and women are nearly identical in their abuse of alcohol and opiates, while men abuse cocaine and marijuana more frequently. As far as race, data suggests that blacks have slightly higher rates of substance abuse over whites, and Hispanics are slightly lower than either group. But those numbers are extremely close, and to accuse either gender or any race of a propensity towards either mental health issues or substance abuse would be unfair.
Education and Religious Beliefs of Conspiracy Theorists
Most articles point out that conspiracy believers are less educated. In other words, mainstream media is painting the conspiracy researcher as a dumb crazy white guy who is probably quoting the bible. So maybe women shy away from conspiracy theory because they are more educated, less religious, and less likely to be crazy than an uneducated, bible thumping religious white guy? We already have shown some mental health data, so let's take a look at the research on education.
The facts say that women are more educated, outpacing men in college degrees. Men do graduate with more science and math based degrees, but the gap is closing. The 5 most popular degrees for women include nursing, psychology, business administration and management, biology and biological sciences, and accounting. Men choose to seek degrees in business administration, accounting, biology and biological sciences, finance, and mechanical engineering. Both genders seem to share equal aptitudes in difficult subjects, but women just earn more degrees overall. So possibly, women are less likely to delve into conspiracy since they are more likely to have a college education.
Taking a look at religious beliefs, the graphs below show that women are actually more likely to consider themselves religious, pray on a daily basis, and have an absolute faith in God. And it's not just an American thing - women worldwide pray more than men do. So that would suggest, based on the 'studies' about conspiracy theorists and their mental states or attitudes, women should be more inclined towards the belief in conspiracy.
To circle back to our original question, why isn't there more female conspiracy theorists? We don't have a real answer. It seems that the evidence is there to show that as many women as men should be conspiracy theorists - yet the media claims that it is a male issue. Women tend to be more politically involved, and the topics they care about are the subject of countless conspiracies. We also see many women voicing their opinion on topics like childhood vaccinations, which makes sense that given that they are the most likely child caregiver in the home and have a vested interest in the topic.
Women are more religious or spiritual overall, and have slightly higher numbers of some mental health disorders - yet the media continues to paint conspiracy beliefs as a mental health issue uniquely related to males. That's hardly a case that would stand up in court, and contradicting the case is the fact that women do achieve a higher level of education as measured by advanced degrees, though more of those women are white.
The mainstream media and studies conducted have concluded that the uneducated white male, who is religious and probably suffers from a mental disorder is the most likely victim of this terrible disease (sarcasm intended). The NASA climate change scientist we mentioned above pointed out that they 'tend to be white over 50'.
Don't forget that the conspiracy theorist is also right wing. Remember, the only theories that are labeled conspiracy come from the right. Al Gore and his claims of global warming, which have yet to really be substantiated to have the effects claimed, have never been labeled conspiracy. Which brings us to the only real point of differentiation we could find between men and women (as it relates to this article): political party affiliation.
More women are registered Democrats than Republicans, and just over half identify as left leaning according to the Pew Research Center. The gap in political leanings is less among men until you get very granular in the data by race and economic group. Now to look at that much information here would be too time consuming (but would make for a great book), but if you look at the numbers - most minorities, non religious people, and young millennial's are left leaning. The people that the media has singled out as "conspiracy theorists" are right leaning. Given the mental health studies that show younger men, and older women, are most effected by schizophrenia - how can the left leaning media claim that it is older males who are prone to the disorder?
So in conclusion, it seems we have found a conspiracy within a conspiracy - an attempt by the left to single out the religious white conservative male, who doesn't have a college education, as a nut-job conspiracy theorists to silence his voice. We can't give a number for gender division within conspiracy theorists, but we encourage you to chime in and comment below if you are a woman who is one.