HKS Authors

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Depression can affect individuals’ attitudes by enhancing cognitive biases and altering perceptions of risk. Some evidence suggests an association between depression and endorsing mass violence. This linkage, however, is undertheorized by social science, tentatively empirically supported, with little attention to conditions impacting the relationship. We investigate whether and how mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic influenced Americans’ attitudes regarding domestic extremist violence surrounding the 2020 election and the January 6th US Capitol riot. We develop a theory regarding the circumstances under which depression will be positively associated with supporting extremist violence. We posit that it depends on internal political efficacy, conspiracy beliefs, and their combination. We test our theory using a two-wave national survey, from November 2020, and January 2021. We find that among efficacious individuals holding conspiracy beliefs, depression is positively associated with support for the Capitol stormers and for violence in response if the respondent believed the election was decided unfairly.


Baum, Matthew A., James Druckman, Matthew D Simonson, Jennifer Lin, and Roy Perlis. "What I Saw on the Road to Insurrection: Internal Political Efficacy, Conspiracy Beliefs and the Effect of Depression on Support for the January 6th Storming of the Capitol." July 2021.