Updated Sep. 5, 2020


Hold onto your 10-gallon tinfoil hat: Wyoming – The Cowboy State – is the state where coronavirus conspiracy theories are the most popular, by a wide margin. Several of the top COVID-19 conspiracy topics, in fact, are most popular in Wyoming in particular.

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National map showing states where coronavirus conspiracy theory searches are most popular

Using Google search data, we identified the most popular conspiracy theories in each state, and we found out which states are home to the highest number of “coronavirus truthers.”

From May to August, several popular coronavirus conspiracy theories spread across the country:

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

At least 25% of Americans see at least some truth in the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus pandemic is a planned event.

What’s more amusing (or terrifying) is that Washington D.C. ranks second in the nation for coronavirus conspiracy popularity.

The Top COVID-19 Conspiracy Theory in Every State

From sea to shining sea, there are those who aren't convinced the novel coronavirus is everything we've been told it is.

Find out which COVID conspiracy theory is the most popular in your state. 

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Map showing the top coronavirus conspiracy theory in each state

State Rankings: Which States Are Most Into Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories?

Skepticism about the coronavirus isn't equal in every state.

Here's how each state ranks, from the states where COVID-19 conspiracy theories are the most popular to the states where they're the least popular.

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States ranked by how popular coronavirus conspiracy theory searches are in the sate, including most popular search term

Debunking the Bunkum and Fake News

We investigated each coronavirus conspiracy “theory” (and we use that term loosely) so you don't have to. Here's what we learned.

Bill Gates is using COVID-19 for nefarious plans

The theory: The yet-to-be developed coronavirus vaccine is actually just a cover-up to implant a trackable microchip into our bodies so the government can keep tabs on us. And the mastermind behind the technology? Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. 

This was the top coronavirus conspiracy theory search for nearly half the country, and a survey conducted by YouGov in May found that as many as 44% of Republicans believe the conspiracy to be true.

The graph below indicates that the Bill Gates coronavirus conspiracy theory was at its peak popularity in May, tapering off through the summer.

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Graph showing Bill Gates coronavirus search trends and COVID-19 infection trends

5G networks and cell towers caused the pandemic

The theory: China was among the first countries to roll out 5G internet networks, having done so in October 2019. The coronavirus is believed to have originated in China in December.

The thinking is that the virus is actually caused by a tiny wave spectrum released by 5G cell towers. This theory has picked up so much momentum that dozens of 5G towers around Europe were burned or destroyed by believers.  

This doozy was the number-one conspiracy theory search term for 14 states in the U.S. The graph below suggests a possible correlation between the popularity of this conspiracy theory and COVID-19 infection rates, though it's difficult for our study to conclusively state the causal effect one trend has on the other.

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Chart showing 5g search term trend and COVID-19 infection trend

Face masks are ineffective and are – in fact – part of the problem

The theory: There are actually multiple theories scurrying about here, including that face masks contain 5G antennas, are used by the government to control us or are a signal to the forthcoming Biblical Rapture.  

But the most common conspiracy theory involving face masks is much simpler: They don’t actually prevent coronavirus transmission or infection. (Spoiler alert, they do)  

As of Sep. 4, there are 35 states (including Washington, D.C.) that have statewide mask mandates. Of the six states where the top coronavirus conspiracy search term involved mask-wearing, only one (Minnesota) has a statewide mask mandate.

Here again a correlation seems to be evident in the popularity of searches around this term and the trend in positive COVID-19 tests, as evident in the graph below. The trends suggest that as COVID-19 infection rates increased nationally, more people sought out information regarding the effectiveness of masks.

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Graph showing trend lines of searches for face mask conspiracy theories and COVID-19 infections

Coronavirus is man-made

The theory: The novel coronavirus was developed in a Chinese lab (intentionally or unintentionally) as part of the country’s supposed biowarfare program.

A closely related theory is that the virus was accidentally released from a lab while scientists were studying infectious diseases. 

The trend lines in the graph below suggest that increases in web searches for "is coronavirus man-made?" could predate increases in COVID-19 infection rates by roughly one month.

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Graph showing coronavirus man made search trends with COVID-19 infection trends

Coronavirus doesn’t actually exist, is a hoax or is part of a larger conspiracy

The theory: The effects of the coronavirus do not actually exist, or are greatly overstated and are “no worse than the flu.”

Some of the variations of this theory are rooted in the idea that the lethality of the coronavirus has been exaggerated by the Democratic Party, the mainstream media or other bad actors in an effort to crash the economy and hurt President Donald Trump’s chances of re-election.

Whether it’s the Illuminati, the Lizard People or aliens, some sinister group is responsible for the virus and for perpetuating its negative impact on peoples’ lives.

What’s being reported by the CDC regarding infection numbers, death rates and other effects of the virus shouldn’t be trusted because of deeper nefarious motives, such as a government cover-up.

Some mixed messaging from the CDC during the early stages of the pandemic in the U.S. may have contributed to this heightened level of distrust in the organization.


We researched the most commonly searched terms related to coronavirus and COVID-19 conspiracy theories. Based on the volume of searches for related terms, we used Google Trends to rank the popularity of these searches by topic and by state.

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