North Dakota ranks high for COVID-related conspiracy theories, reports says

Anja Solum, data journalist at, said a recent study completed by her team suggests there are seven popular conspiracy theories based on keyword searches.

In fact, from May to August, several popular coronavirus conspiracy theories spread across the country:

  1. Bill Gates is using a coronavirus vaccine to implant a trackable device in our bodies.
  2. Coronavirus is caused by 5G networks and towers.
  3. Face masks don’t slow transmission and infection.
  4. The coronavirus doesn’t actually exist.
  5. The coronavirus was man-made.
  6. We are being lied to by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the news media and/or the government.

“Our team used to analyze the popularity of the 10 terms used for this study on a state-by-state level,” Solum explained. “Google Trends provides a search volume metric on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being peak search popularity.”

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After’s data team curated the keyword lists, they identified several of the most popular keyword phrases to assign the overall “COVID conspiracy saturation” rank to each individual state.

Solum noted that North Dakota averaged 60 for the 10 search terms during a three-month period, earning the state fifth in the nation. In comparison, Wyoming, the number one state for COVID conspiracy searches, earned an average metric of 90.

“Of the coronavirus conspiracy theories for which we found online search data, the most popular by far were related to the idea that Bill Gates either started the coronavirus or is using the pandemic to implant microchips into large portions of society,” she said.

Bill Gates and his “nefarious plan for trackable implant devices” is the top coronavirus conspiracy theory search for nearly half the country.

Theis graph indicates that the Bill Gates coronavirus conspiracy theory was at its peak popularity in May, tapering off through the summer. Graph courtesy of

Theis graph indicates that the Bill Gates coronavirus conspiracy theory was at its peak popularity in May, tapering off through the summer. Graph courtesy of

According to a YouGov survey, from the beginning of the summer, as many as 44% of Republicans subscribe to the “Bill Gates” theory. When comparing the study’s “Top Conspiracy Per State Map” with a map showing red, blue and swing states, there seems to be some positive correlation with the “Bill Gates” theory in red and swing states.

Solum said North Dakota leans red, so this could partially explain the theory’s popularity in the state.

Solum also highlighted the theory’s origin compared to others. It made its way from various Reddit and YouTube posts to much broader discussion from prominent media voices.

Laura Ingraham, who has 3.6 million followers on Twitter, retweeted a link to an article that echoes this theory; Roger Stone suggested that the idea might be true during an interview on Joe Piscopo’s New Jersey radio show, and a May survey by YouGov found 44% of Republicans and 20% of Democrats believe the theory is true.

You can find’s other coronavirus surveys and studies on their research reports page.


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