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12.5-million Americans think lizard people rule the world, plus 19 other conspiracy theories

A Komodo dragon ponders your fate at the Komodo National Park in Indonesia on October 4, 2011.

Beawiharta/Reuters

"Do you believe that shape-shifting reptilian people control our world by taking on human form and gaining political power to manipulate our societies, or not?"

Uh…

This was one of the 20 questions in a survey conducted by the American firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) and released yesterday (as in, not an April Fools' Day joke).

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The remaining 19 covered a wide swath of conspiracy theories, from JFK's assassination (did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone?) to a potential link between childhood vaccinations and autism. You can find the full list here.

The Atlantic Monthly has gone to great effort to organize the questions from most to least believed (JFK ranked highest at 51 per cent; the Bush administration intentionally misleading the public into war with Iraq came in second at 44 per cent).

But back to the lizard people. It seems 4 per cent of respondents think reptile hybrids run the world. As the Atlantic Monthly points out, that translates to more than 12.5-million Americans.

Study the findings for long enough (because it's a slow news day) and you can draw your own macro theories – or at least find some cold comfort. For instance, it's unlikely that the people who believe in lizard leaders also believe that Obama is the anti-Christ.

If you believe in Bigfoot or Sasquatch, you're not alone, although you are a minority; only 14 per cent of respondents answered yes.

Paul McCartney made the list (5 per cent of respondents believe he died in a car crash in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a doppelganger) but Elvis Presley did not.

But how did this survey end up being more than mere tabloid fodder? PPP's surveys typically concern issues around politics and public policy and, beyond the 20 conspiracy questions, the survey also asked how respondents voted in the 2011 election and whether they lean strongly conservative or liberal. All of the 1,247 respondents were registered voters.

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Turns out, Romney supporters were more likely to believe all but five of the conspiracy theories than those who voted for Obama. Two of the questions drew a tie: that the government adds fluoride to the water for "more sinister reasons" and that aliens exist. Interestingly, Obama supporters favoured the notion that the CIA was responsible for distributing crack cocaine in American inner cities.

So while the next U.S. election is still three-and-a-half years away, there's clearly no shortage of political party miscellany to explore.

And just for clarification, the question, "Do you believe the media or the government adds secret mind-controlling technology to television or broadcast signals, or not?" does not include newspapers – or newspaper blogs.

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