Posted on June 19, 2024

Pew Revises ‘Racial Conspiracy Theories’ Report After Criticism

Cheyanne M. Daniels, The Hill, June 19, 2024

Pew Research Center has revised a recent study after advocates criticized the research institute for saying a majority of Black Americans believe “racial conspiracy theories” about U.S. institutions.

The June 10 report, originally titled “Most Black Americans Believe Racial Conspiracy Theories About U.S. Institutions,” found that a majority of Black Americans said they believe U.S. institutions were designed, and continue, to keep them from succeeding.

But backlash from organizations, including JustLeadershipUSA, condemned the title, citing that the concerns many Black Americans voiced in the survey were based on historical fact.

“Why would the people at the Pew Research Center call the opinion of the vast majority of Black Americans — which is rooted in facts, history, and lived experience — a ‘conspiracy theory,’ when it is actually a reality?” said DeAnna Hoskins, JustLeadershipUSA president and CEO and founder of the JustUS Coordinating Council.

“It is, in fact, deeply harmful and problematic to label these beliefs — based on Black Americans’ direct experience and knowledge of their own history — as ‘conspiracy theories.’ It borders on gaslighting, and, regardless of the intent, the impact is potentially very damaging to the Black community,” she added.

Pew has changed the title to “Most Black Americans Believe U.S. Institutions Were Designed To Hold Black People Back” and acknowledged the use of “conspiracy theories” was not the best word choice to describe the “complex and mixed set of findings.” They have removed all mentions of “conspiracy theories” from the study.

“By using these words, our reporting distorted rather than clarified the point of the study,” Pew states at the top of the study now.

The study found that most Black Americans surveyed said they believe the criminal justice, political and economic systems were designed to hold Black people back a great deal or fair amount.


“Black people’s voices are pretty resounding in a critique of where they think the country needs to go,” Kiana Cox, senior researcher at Pew Research Center and co-author of the study, told The Hill. “The data was clear that Black people don’t think these institutions need minor changes, they think these institutions need to be completely rebuilt to ensure fairness. {snip}”


“If we just listen to what Black people have told us in these surveys, I think it’s very clear that institutions treat Black people unfairly,” Cox said. “They need to be significantly overhauled. There was hope for change after the movement responding to George Floyd’s murder, and Black people have seen that those changes have not occurred.”