A research poll conducted by Hope Not Hate (HNH), an anti-racist campaign group based in the United Kingdom, found that nearly 30% of respondents believe China intentionally spread COVID-19 as a bio-weapon.
The results of the poll found that a concerning number of Britons have read and believe COVID-19 conspiracy theories, which HNH describe as “dangerous” and “worrying.”
In their “State of HATE 2022” report, HNH states: “Conspiracies are often dismissed as a bit of a harmless joke and viewed with a sense of amusement by many. However, once you start believing in one conspiracy then you are more likely to believe in others, and often these can be far more dangerous and politically extreme.”
Around 50% of the poll respondents had read content claiming that coronavirus was used as “a bio-weapon intentionally spread by the Chinese state,” with 28% indicating they believed the theory is “somewhat true” and 6% believing that it is “definitely true.” Additionally, around 18% believe that the virus was either “definitely” or “probably” part of a “depopulation” plan on the part of the United Nations.
HNH’s report also found that of those who believe the COVID-19 conspiracy theories, more were men than women. Respondents were also more likely to lean right politically.
The poll results reflected clear correlations between conspiracy theories and attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines. Of the 25% of Britons who think the vaccines are unsafe, 44% of respondents believe the theory that China had intentionally spread the virus.
Positive correlations were also found between supporters of Tommy Robinson, a British far-right and anti-Islam activist, and beliefs in conspiracy theories. Of Robinson’s supporters, 50% of respondents indicated they believe in the theory. Other conspiracies respondents believed in were that COVID-19 was “intentionally released as part of a ‘depopulation’ plan orchestrated by the UN or New World Order” and that “elites in Hollywood, Governments, media and other powerful positions are secretly engaging in large scale child trafficking and abuse,” HNH’s research reported.
“We are particularly worried about the growing numbers of young people being attracted to far right politics and dangerous conspiracy theories,” HNH Chief Executive Nick Lowles said, according to the Independent. “This trend has been happening for several years, but it has been accelerated by Covid conspiracies and the increasingly aggressive anti-lockdown movement.”
Among the various other areas the study looked at were the experiences of racism among people of color, including Black and Asian communities. Acknowledging that racism “remains an everyday experience for many people of colour,” the report revealed that about 50% of respondents had witnessed or experienced racial abuse, while 67% of respondents of “minority ethnic backgrounds” believed that “[B]lack and Asian people face discrimination in their everyday lives.”
The study also found that there had been a 9% increase since last year in “offences where one or more of the centrally monitored hate crime strands were deemed to be a motivating factor.” Meanwhile, Victim Support reported an 11% increase in hate crime victims seeking support, leading to 10,679 prosecutions and 9,236 convictions.