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Most Americans Believe Oswald Conspired With Others to Kill JFK

Support for conspiracy theory increased sharply in the 1970's and has been high ever since

by Darren K. Carlson


PRINCETON, NJ – The vast majority of Americans believe the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, one of the most infamous events in American history, was a conspiracy. A Gallup poll from March of this year shows that over 8 in 10 Americans (81%) believe that other people were involved in a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy. Only 13% of the public believes that just one man (Lee Harvey Oswald) acted alone. These recent results match the high point of those believing in a conspiracy, a percentage that has increased since the 1960s.

Gallup first asked about a possible conspiracy shortly after the assassination in November of 1963, and at that time, 52% of the public thought others were involved in the assassination. A similar percentage (50%) believed in a conspiracy three years later in December 1966. When Gallup revisited the subject in 1976, the percentage believing others were involved had increased considerably. At that time, 81% thought others were involved in the killing of President Kennedy. It is likely that this large increase in belief in a conspiracy was related to the highly publicized findings of the 1976 HSCA (House Select Committee on Assassinations), which concluded that Kennedy was probably killed as a result of a conspiracy. The percentage believing in a conspiracy decreased slightly, by 7 percent, in 1983 (74%). Support of the conspiracy theory remained high in 1992 (77%), and 1993 (75%), following the release of the popular Oliver Stone film "JFK" in 1991, which presented a variety of assassination conspiracy theories.

Interestingly, those with more formal education tend to have the lowest belief in a possible conspiracy in the JFK assassination. Among those with a post-graduate education, 71% believe others were involved in the assassination, compared with 78% among those with some college education and 84% among those with a H.S. education or less.

Importance of the Assassination
The JFK assassination does stand out as a hallmark event of the previous century, according to the American public. A Gallup poll in 1999 asked Americans about the importance of a variety of events that occurred during the century. The results of that question place the assassination 8th on the list of important events in the 20th century, behind events surrounding both World Wars, women getting the right to vote, and the passing of the Civil Rights Act. Importance of the Kennedy assassination was nearly identical to that assigned to landing a man on the moon in 1969, and ranked ahead of items like the Vietnam War, the breakup of the Soviet Union, economic depression of the 1930s, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Survey Methods

The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,024 adults, 18 years and older, conducted March 26-28, 2001. For results based on these samples, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Do you think that one man was responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy, or do you think that others were involved in a conspiracy?


One man

Others involved

No opinion


2001 Mar 26-28





1993 Nov 15-16




1992 Feb ^




1983 Oct ^




1976 Dec †




1966 Dec †




1963 Nov †






Wording included "one man, Lee Harvey Oswald,…"

Slight variations in wording:
1963 - "Do you think that the man who shot President Kennedy acted on his own, or was some group or element also responsible?"

1966 - "Do you think that one man was responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy, or do you think others were involved?"

1976 - "Do you think that one man was responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy, or do you think others were involved?"


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