Joseph Uscinski

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Joseph Uscinski
Joseph Uscinski 2018.jpg
EducationPolitical Science
Alma mater

Joseph Uscinski (born 1975) is an American political scientist specializing in the study of conspiracy theories.[1] His most notable work is American Conspiracy Theories (Oxford, 2014) co-authored with Joseph M. Parent.[2] He is an associate professor at the University of Miami's Political Science department, and author of several academic publications.[3]



Uscinski is originally from New England. He received his BA in political science from Plymouth State University, his MA from University of New Hampshire, and his Ph.D. from University of Arizona. He has been a member of the University of Miami political science department since 2007.[4]

Uscinski offers courses yearly, featuring prominent journalists and activists, with topics including the elections and immigration reform. Notable past guests have included political and prominent media figures Tom Tancredo, Mark Wallace, Joe Garcia, Carlos Cuerbelo, Herman Cain, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Jorge Ramos, Donna Shalala, Bernie Goldberg, and Joy Reid.[3]

He is a frequent contributor to The Washington Post Monkey Cage, and has written several academic journal articles and op-eds in publications such as Politico,[5] Vox,[6] and Newsweek.[7]


In 2015, Uscinski organized and convened the first international conference on conspiracy theory research in Miami.[8][9][10] The conference featured more than fifty scholars from ten countries.[11] Uscinski was frequently consulted by journalists during the 2016 U.S. election for his commentary on the rise of campaign-fueled conspiracy theories.[12][13] and for his criticism of their use by politicians.[14] Uscinski has said that "Conspiracy theories are in many ways a battle between insiders and outsiders over truth".[15]

A survey conducted with Sofia Gaston of Centre for Social and Political Risk at the Henry Jackson Society found widespread anxiety about Americans' perceived impact of immigration. It found that 55% of Americans believe the government is concealing the true cost of immigration, which Gaston and Uscinski say indicates that conspiratorial thinking on immigration is mainstream. The survey also found that Republicans are most conspiratorial about immigration, but that 33-50% of Democrats share the same views.[16] This survey was then similarly replicated in the United Kingdom, revealing that 58% of British adults believe the government is concealing the cost of immigration, and that 59% believe those who have spoken out about immigration have been treated unfairly.[17]


The People's News: Media, Politics, and the Demands of Capitalism[edit]

Uscinski's first book, The People's News: Media, Politics, and the Demands of Capitalism,[18] was published by New York University Press in 2014. In it, he argued that profit motives were the largest factor driving American journalism, and he supported this argument with a study focusing on the likelihood that regional newspapers would reprint a story from the back of the national section of the New York Times as a function of whether or not the story focused on dogs. The study found that dog stories were 2.6 times more likely to be reprinted elsewhere than was the case for equivalent dog-free news.[19][20][21][22]

American Conspiracy Theories[edit]

His second book, co-authored with Joseph M. Parent, American Conspiracy Theories, was published by Oxford University Press in 2014. In this book, Uscinski and Parent study the waxing and waning of conspiracy theorizing over time in the United States. The main hypothesis of the book was that conspiracy theories are for losers. By that, they argue that those who are out of power tend to use conspiracy theories to consolidate resources, focus attention on an enemy, and aim at redemption. This manifests itself particularly after elections. According to Uscinski, “in the U.S., conspiracy theories tend to swing back and forth. When a Democrat is in the White House, the most resonant conspiracy theories accuse Democrats and their allies of conspiring. When a Republican is in the White House, the accusations focus on Republicans and their allies.”[15] The book has been widely reviewed [23][24][25][26] and discussed.[27] Recent survey evidence taken before and after the 2016 election provides positive evidence for the "conspiracy theories are for losers" theory.[28] More controversially, Uscinski argues that Republicans and Democrats are equally taken to conspiracy theorizing,[29][30][31] and that Americans may not be engaging in conspiracy theorizing more than in previous decades. Surveys also found that the less educated the respondent, the more likely he or she was to be predisposed to conspiratorial thinking, and that the poor tended to be more conspiratorially inclined than the rich.[32]

Uscinski has also found that there are individual differences in our more general proneness toward conspiracy theory thinking. "Some people see events and circumstances and immediately think that a conspiracy is behind them. Other people don’t. Our propensity to see conspiracies lurking behind every corner is largely determined by processes that occurred during our formative years. People’s world views are solidified as they move into adulthood." [15]

Joseph Uscinski
Joseph Uscinski CSICon 2018 Conspiracy Theories are for Losers 1.jpg
Joseph Uscinski speaking at CSICon 2018

Uscinski prominently discussed the use of conspiracy theories in the 2016 election.[33][34][35][36] He argued that President Trump was using conspiracy theories to mobilize sectors of the electorate that did not trust mainstream candidates.[37][38] Since the election, Uscinski has spoken against fake news,[39][40] but has suggested that fake news may not be a new problem.[41]

Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them[edit]

Uscinski's third book, Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them, was published by Oxford University Press in 2018. The book explores the dark corners of conspiracy theories, how people and democracies act on them, and how the phenomena affects politics and society.[42]

Personal life[edit]

Uscinski was born in Connecticut and lived there until 1983 until his family moved to New Hampshire. Since he was a Yankees fan and found himself in Red Sox territory, Uscinski said he was tormented by classmates. "Keep in mind, the Red Sox back then were the biggest losers on the planet, and their fans were terribly angry. Once they started winning in 2004, they went into therapy to deal with the fact that they were no longer losers. Because of this, it’s much easier to visit home now...."[15]


  1. ^ "What Does This Professor Know About Conspiracy Theorists That We Don't?". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2018-08-06. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
  2. ^ Uscinski, Joseph E.; Parent, Joseph M. (2014-09-04). American Conspiracy Theories. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199351800.
  3. ^ a b "Joseph Uscinski". Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  4. ^ "Joseph Uscinski CV" (PDF). University of Miami People. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  5. ^ Uscinski, Joesph (January 18, 2018). "Why 'Girthers' Are the Biggest Losers". Politico magazine. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  6. ^ Uscinski, Joseph (May 2, 2017). "How conspiracy theories helped power Trump's disruptive politics". Vox. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  7. ^ Uscinski, Joseph (April 3, 2016). "WILL TRUMP BECOME CONSPIRACY THEORIST IN CHIEF?". Newsweek. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  8. ^ "College of Arts and Sciences, News & Events, News Archive". University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences News. March 18, 2015. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  9. ^ "Upcoming Conference". Retrieved 2017-05-14.
  10. ^ "The Miami Conference | Welcome to the Leverhulme-Funded Research Project: Conspiracy and Democracy". Retrieved 2017-05-14.
  11. ^ Jesse Walker, "What I Saw At the Conspiracy Theory Conference". 2015-03-18. Retrieved 2017-05-14.
  12. ^ Chokshi, Niraj; Chokshi, Niraj (2015-12-04). "False flags, true believers and trolls: Understanding conspiracy theories after tragedies". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-05-14.
  13. ^ "Why do Americans love conspiracy theories so much?". Public Radio International. Retrieved 2017-05-14.
  14. ^ Elfrink, Tim (2016-10-14). "America's Conspiracy Theory Experts Are UM Professors, and Their Phones Are Ringing Off the Hook". Miami New Times. Retrieved 2017-05-14.
  15. ^ a b c d Gerbic, Susan. "On Dogs and Conspiracy Theories". Skeptical Inquirer. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  16. ^ Gaston, Sofia (December 14, 2018). "A majority of Americans no longer trust their government on immigration". LSE US Centre. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  17. ^ Gaston, Sofia (December 4, 2019). "Majority of Brits believe Government is hiding the true cost of immigration, 'shock' report finds". Henry Jackson Society. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  18. ^ Uscinski, Joseph (2014). The People's News: Media, Politics, and the Demands of Capitalism. New York: NYU Press.
  19. ^ Atkinson, Matthew D.; Deam, Maria; Uscinski, Joseph E. (2014-10-01). "What's a Dog Story Worth?". PS: Political Science & Politics. 47 (4): 819–823. doi:10.1017/S1049096514001103. ISSN 1049-0965.
  20. ^ "What dogs do for newspapers — and democracy - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  21. ^ "American media is in the tank for puppies". Vox. 2014-11-19. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  22. ^ Greenwood, Veronique. "Dogs' Love Isn't Unconditional After All". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  23. ^ "Book Review: American Conspiracy Theories by Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent". LSE Review of Books. 2015-02-25. Retrieved 2017-05-12.
  24. ^ Fenster, Mark (2017-03-01). "American Conspiracy Theories. By Uscinski Joseph E. and Parent Joseph M. . New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. 240p. $105.00 cloth, 31.95 paper". Perspectives on Politics. 15 (1): 257–258. doi:10.1017/S153759271600493X. ISSN 1537-5927.
  25. ^ Miller, Joanne M.; Saunders, Kyle L. (2016-01-02). "Conspiracy Theories in the United States: More Commonplace than Extraordinary". Critical Review. 28 (1): 127–136. doi:10.1080/08913811.2016.1172802. ISSN 0891-3811.
  26. ^ Nacos, Brigitte L. (2015-09-22). "American Conspiracy Theories". Political Science Quarterly. 130 (3).
  27. ^ Shermer, Michael (2014). "Conspiracy Central". Scientific American. 311 (6): 94. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1214-94.
  28. ^ Nyhan, Brendan (2017-02-15). "Why More Democrats Are Now Embracing Conspiracy Theories". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-05-12.
  29. ^ "Attack of the Crazy Centrists". Paul Krugman Blog. Retrieved 2017-05-12.
  30. ^ "Catch of the Day: Who Believes in Crazy Conspiracy Theories?". 2014-08-22. Retrieved 2017-05-12.
  31. ^ "No, all Americans are not created equal when it comes to belief in conspiracy theories". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-05-12.
  32. ^ Kolbert, Elizabeth (April 15, 2019). "What's New About Conspiracy Theories?". The New Yorker. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  33. ^ "What is Hillary Clinton trying to say with this ad about Donald Trump and Putin?". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  34. ^ "Perspective | Democracy requires trust. But Trump is making us all into conspiracy theorists". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  35. ^ Isaac, Bronwyn. "This Is Why Trump's Conspiracy Theories Work, Say Experts". Bustle. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  36. ^ "The 5 Most Dangerous Conspiracy Theories of 2016". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  37. ^ "The four cryptic words Donald Trump can't stop saying". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  38. ^ "Trump's Outsider Appeal Holds on Staten Island". NY City Lens. 2016-10-21. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  39. ^ University of Miami (2017-04-22), Cane Talks - Joe Uscinski, retrieved 2017-05-13
  40. ^ Haberman, Clyde (2017-04-30). "Who's Fueling Conspiracy Whisperers' Falsehoods?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  41. ^ "Fake News Freakout". 2017-02-05. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  42. ^ Uscinski, Joseph (2018). Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them. Oxford University Press. pp. ISBN 9780190844073.