To most of the world, the QAnon conspiracy theory—which posits the world is run by a group of child-murdering pedophiles former President Donald Trump is working to stop—may seem laughably preposterous.
But a new poll gives a chilling glimpse into the degree to which the conspiracy theory has been mainstreamed across the United States.
According to the poll's sponsors—non-profit Public Religion Research Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core—a staggering 15% of Americans—more than 30 million people—sincerely believe the theory's claims that the United States is run by a nefarious cabal of Satan-worshipping child rapists.
The findings of PRRI, a non-partisan organization dedicated to "independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy," paint a decidedly disturbing picture of the American electorate today.
The 15% figure alone is startling.
But in an interview with The New York Times, PRRI founder Robby Jones brought the figure into even more unnerving focus. Such a proportion of Americans basically equates to an established religious group.
"Thinking about QAnon, if it were a religion, it would be as big as all White evangelical Protestants, or all White mainline Protestants. So it lines up there with a major religious group."
Sharing the astonishment of much of the rest of the world, Jones added of his "Satan-worshipping pedophile" question:
"These are words I never thought I would write into a poll question, or have the need to, but here we are."
Jones' further findings are even more disturbing.
The same proportion, 15%, of respondents, agreed with the statement "American patriots may have to resort to violence" in order to depose this evil cabal, which QAnon adherents claim includes everyone from Hillary Clinton and Bill Gates to Madonna and Tom Hanks.
Another 20% of respondents agreed a Biblical-level "storm" was coming to rid the world of this evil confederacy. PRRI also found that fully 25% of Republicans—one in four—consider themselves QAnon believers.
PRRI also created a category for "QAnon doubters," who were somewhat skeptical of the movement's claims but did not reject them out of hand entirely. This category comprised another 55% of Republicans. If you're keeping score, that makes 80% of Republicans who have placed faith in an online, unsupported conspiracy theory over reality.
In his analysis, Jones cautioned against many Americans' reflex to laugh off QAnon adherents as crackpots.
"It's one thing to say that most Americans laugh off these outlandish beliefs, but when you take into consideration that these beliefs are linked to a kind of apocalyptic thinking and violence, then it becomes something quite different."
On Twitter, many were deeply disturbed by PRRI's findings.
PRRI's poll also found a high degree of correlation between QAnon adherence and viewership of networks like Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network, as well as conspiracy theories about the pandemic and vaccines.