Such leaders, the four authors write, "often spread conspiracy theories to direct the attention, emotion, and energy of followers toward a common enemy who threatens their interests, thereby galvanizing followers. Toward this end, many conspiracy theories depict a nefarious perpetrator engaging in covert activities to harm the welfare of followers."
"Systems such as open elections and the free press can safeguard democracy by illuminating corrupt behavior and ensuring the peaceful transition of power. Leaders may use conspiracy theories to undermine the credibility, legitimacy, and authority of these institutions, however, if they threaten their power."
Politicians who adopt conspiratorial strategies, Ren and colleagues write, "find this to be an especially effective tactic if their own claim to power is illegitimate or controversial. Moreover, since the exposure to conspiracy theories reduces followers’ confidence in democratic institutions, leaders may even mobilize followers to engage in violent actions that further undermine these institutions (e.g., disputing an election defeat by initiating riots or mobilizing military forces)."
"While there was a clear positive relation suggestive of greater conspiracy mentality at the political right in countries spanning the center — north of Europe such as Austria, Belgium (particularly Flanders), France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden, the conspiracy mentality was more pronounced on the left in countries spanning the center-south of Europe such as Hungary, Romania and Spain."
"Taken together, supporters of political parties that are judged as extreme on either end of the political spectrum in general terms have increased conspiracy mentality. Focusing on the position of parties on the dimension of democratic values and freedom, the link with conspiracy mentality is linear, with higher conspiracy mentality among supporters of authoritarian right-wing parties. Thus, supporters of extreme right-wing parties seem to have a consistently higher conspiracy mentality, whereas the same only counts for extreme left-wing parties of a more authoritarian makeup and with less focus on ecological and liberal values."