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Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce walks with girlfriend and pop star Taylor Swift on Jan. 28, 2024, in Baltimore. (AP) Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce walks with girlfriend and pop star Taylor Swift on Jan. 28, 2024, in Baltimore. (AP)

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce walks with girlfriend and pop star Taylor Swift on Jan. 28, 2024, in Baltimore. (AP)

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson February 20, 2024
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman February 20, 2024

If Your Time is short

  • About 18% of respondents to a February Monmouth University poll said they believe the government is covertly pushing singer-songwriter Taylor Swift to help Biden win reelection in November.

  • The majority of respondents who believe the Swift-Biden theory are Republicans and plan to vote for Trump.

  • Our mission: Help you be an informed participant in democracy. Learn more.

A January Fox News segment promoted the bubbling conspiracy theory that singer-songwriter Taylor Swift is a government operative whose mission is bolstering President Joe Biden’s reelection chances. Now a poll shows a significant percentage of Americans are buying the false claim.

Monmouth University Polling Institute’s mid-February survey of 902 adults found that nearly 1 in 5 Americans believed the Swift-psyop theory. The telephone polling overlapped with the Feb. 11 Super Bowl in Las Vegas, which Swift attended to watch her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce.

"Even many who hadn’t heard about it before we polled them accept the idea as credible," Patrick Murray, the Monmouth pollster who directed the survey, said in an announcement about the poll results. It has "legs among a decent number of Trump supporters."

The poll results drew significant media attention. But as fact-checkers, we had questions. How meaningful is any poll when asking about a conspiracy theory? How much room do poll respondents have to fill in the blanks about how far the conspiracy stretches? And could support for the theory simply be standing in for disdain for Biden, Swift or both?

In January, The New York Times reported that unnamed Biden aides were dreaming of a Swift endorsement. (Swift endorsed Biden in 2020.) But there is no evidence that Biden or his allies are manipulating government resources to produce a renewed endorsement this year.

"A lot more research would have to be done to tease apart all of the contributors to support for the Swift covert ops conspiracy," said Jesse H. Rhodes, a University of Massachusetts-Amherst political scientist and co-director of the UMass poll. "I think the main point is that there are many contributors to apparent support for this conspiracy, and not all of them reflect genuine, heartfelt endorsement of the conspiracy (theory) itself."

The poll found largely Republicans believed the Swift-Biden theory

In the Monmouth poll, respondents were asked whether they had heard of Swift (only 5% had not) and, if so, whether they viewed her favorably or unfavorably (39% favorable, 13% unfavorable and the balance no opinion). The poll also asked whether they considered themselves hard-core "Swifties" (only 6%). Respondents were also asked their view on Swift encouraging people to vote in the presidential election (68% approved).

Later in the poll, 46% of respondents said they had heard of the theory that Swift is part of a covert government effort to help Joe Biden win. 

Then the pollsters asked, "Do you think that a covert government effort for Taylor Swift to help Joe Biden win the presidential election actually exists, or not?" The poll did not define that alleged "covert government effort" and did not ask respondents follow-up questions that would clarify their views about such theory. 

About 1 in 5 – 18% – said yes. About 71% of those who believed this identify with or lean toward the Republican Party and 83% said they are likely to support Donald Trump in the fall, the polling institute said. The poll had a sampling margin of error of about plus or minus 4 percentage points, meaning that results like the 18% figure could be from four points lower to four points higher. 

Paradoxically, 42% of poll respondents who said the conspiracy exists also said they had not heard about it before Monmouth’s pollsters asked them about it.

A segment of the population may be primed to believe in various conspiracy theories

Previous polling has shown that a nontrivial segment of the American public believes in conspiracy theories. 

Monmouth polling from 2018 found that a majority said the "Deep State," a purported group of unelected government and military officials who secretly direct or manipulate national policy, "probably" or "definitely" exists. In 2010, PolitiFact gave a Pants on Fire to the claim supported by 18% of the population, that then-President Barack Obama was Muslim, a finding a Pew Research Center poll had recently recorded.

Murray said that, in any polling, some respondents give an answer that "aligns with a pre-existing attitudinal pattern." However, the Swift psyop theory offers especially strong evidence of that. 

Among Republicans and Republican-leaning respondents who had preexisting knowledge of the story, Murray said, 42% said the conspiracy exists.

Also, nearly three-quarters (73%) of poll respondents who said they believed the theory about Swift also said they believed the 2020 election outcome was fraudulent. PolitiFact has repeatedly debunked statements that the 2020 election was stolen or rigged or that Biden’s win was illegitimate

"There always seems to be a segment of the public that believes in conspiracy theories," said Karlyn Bowman, a polling analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. "I’ve always wondered if people who answer these questions are true believers, soft believers, or are just teasing the pollsters. We don’t know how deeply people hold these beliefs."

In a 2013 article, Bowman wrote that substantial survey data signaled that "skepticism about the federal government’s power and reach is deep. It seems that whenever pollsters use the words ‘government’ and ‘cover-up,’ a substantial number respond in the affirmative."

The University of Massachusetts’ Rhodes agreed that suspicions of the federal government are widespread, pointing to persistent conspiracy theories about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"The Swift covert op conspiracy shares characteristics of other conspiracy theories in that it features a narrative of powerful actors using shadowy methods to shape politics and manipulate the public," Rhodes said. "Because the Swift conspiracy partakes of narrative forms common to conspiracy theories in general, people who tend to believe in conspiracy theories might gravitate to this one."

Could the Swift conspiracy reflect anti-Biden sentiment more than the conspiracy itself?

Rhodes suggested that some respondents may not believe the conspiracy theory’s specifics but said they agreed with it because they distrust the government or dislike Biden or Swift.

"This conspiracy theory is a way of expressing negative sentiment toward Biden, Swift, the federal government, or all of the above," said Rhodes, who said social scientists call this phenomenon "expressive responding.’

Other poll respondents could have said they believe the theory because they were reacting to a sentiment shared on conservative media that coverage of Swift and Kelce shifted the Super Bowl focus away from football.

"There are many contributors to apparent support for this conspiracy, and not all of them reflect genuine, heartfelt endorsement of the conspiracy itself," Rhodes said.

Also playing into support for the Swift conspiracy theory could be sentiment that celebrities should stay out of politics, Bowman said. A recent Economist/YouGov poll showed that 48% of respondents want Taylor Swift to not speak publicly about politics. 

RELATED: What could a Taylor Swift endorsement mean for voter turnout in the 2024 election?

RELATED: Taylor Swift: Singer, songwriter, psyop? How conservative pundits spread a wild theory


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Our Sources

Monmouth University, Nearly 1 in 5 Believe Taylor Swift Election Conspiracy Theory, Feb. 14, 2024

YouGov Survey, Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2024

American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Public Opinion on Conspiracy Theories, November 2013

The New York Times, Inside Biden’s anti-Trump battle plan (and where Taylor Swift fits in), Jan. 29, 2024

PolitiFact, Obama a Muslim? No he's not. The evidence has not changed. Aug. 26, 2010

Patrick Murray, X post, Feb. 14, 2024

Email and telephone interview, Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, Feb. 15, 2024

Email interview, Jesse H. Rhodes, political science professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Feb. 16, 2024

Email interview, Karlyn Bowman, distinguished senior fellow emeritus, Feb. 16, 2024

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