How Big a Deal Is QAnon, Anyway?

Brian Cahn/ZUMA

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.I was mulling over QAnon recently, wondering just how many people actually take the crackpot conspiracy theory seriously and approve of it. So I went looking for polls and found two, both conducted during the first half of September. They agree that only about half of Americans have even heard about QAnon, but they differ wildly in their assessment of how many fans it has:
NBC News says that 3 percent of respondents are “very or somewhat positive” towards QAnon.
Pew Research says that 9.4 percent of respondents think QAnon is “very or somewhat good for the country.”
That’s a big difference. If it’s really 9.4 percent, we have a serious problem. That’s a tenth of the population believing the country is under attack by a deep-state child sex trafficking ring. But if it’s 3 percent—well, that’s just business as usual. You can probably find 3 percent of Americans to support just about any wackadoodle conspiracy theory.
It seems like it might be important to get a firmer grip on this, especially since President Trump has recently praised QAnon and at least two Republican candidates for Congress have endorsed it, even as the FBI has identified it as a domestic terrorism threat. If QAnon is truly going mainstream, as Ali Breland wrote for us recently, it deserves some serious attention. On the other hand, if it’s still a fringe theory that’s just having its 15 minutes in the sun, maybe it’s not worth worrying about so much.
But which is it?