The belief in a JFK conspiracy has slipped slightly, according a poll commissioned by the Associated Press. The survey found 59 percent of Americans think multiple people were involved in a conspiracy to kill the president, while 24 percent think Oswald acted alone. A 2003 Gallup poll found that 75 percent of Americans felt there was a conspiracy.
But what is most striking about these poll numbers is how similar they are to what pollsters found 50 years ago.
A poll of 1,300 people taken by the National Opinion Research Center in the week after Kennedy’s assassination found that 24 percent of respondents thought one man was responsible while 62 percent thought “other people were involved too.”
In Dallas 66 percent of respondents thought the assassination was the work of more than one person. Only 15 percent thought it was the action of only one person.
The numbers are a reminder that the belief in a JFK conspiracy did not originate in the publications of conspiracy theorists. There were no published conspiracy theories a week after the crime. The belief in conspiracy originated in the circumstances of the crime.
(These figures are found in “The Kennedy Assassination and the American Public: Social Communication in Crisis,” edited by Bradley S. Greenberg and Edwin B. Parker, Stanford University Press, 1965.)