People For the American Way

New QAnon Primer Explores Origin and Scope of Threat


Contact: Press Department at People For the American Way

Email: [email protected]

Phone Number: 202.467.4999

Washington, D.C.— With election season in full swing, there is a surge of interest in the role of QAnon, the bizarre conspiracy theory that has morphed into a dangerous far-right political force. People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch has been monitoring and reporting on QAnon since it first emerged on the internet in 2017. Today Right Wing Watch is releasing its report “QAnon: The Dangerous Movement Making Waves in the 2020 Election,”  a new guide to the fundamentals of a movement that is now a serious threat to safety and democracy.

“The theories behind QAnon seem so absurd that many people are tempted to dismiss it as not a real threat,” said People For the American Way President Ben Jealous. “This new guide tells us it’s time to wake up. QAnon is a real and dangerous force in politics today. It’s a place where all sorts of racist and violent agendas are encouraged. And it’s not going away after the election, so this is a challenge we have to take on now and not let go.”

“QAnon today is a toxic stew of ancient anti-Semitic fables, wild conspiracy theories bred on the internet, and festering far-right political discontent,” said Right Wing Watch Editor Adele Stan. “In just a short time it has grown influential enough that Republican politicians, up to and including Donald Trump, are terrified of antagonizing it and instead are embracing it. And now it is spreading overseas, magnifying the threat. We wrote this report to help people better understand it and also to raise a red flag that much more must be done to combat it.”

The report-primer finds that QAnon is now a “big tent” for many conspiracy theories, but has at its core the false narrative that leading Democrats and other media and political figures are part of a Satan-worshiping cabal of pedophiles who use children’s blood in a variety of rituals. It posits that Donald Trump is a hero engaged in a behind-the-scenes battle to defeat this cabal. Recent polling shows that an astonishing one-half of Trump supporters actually believe in this narrative.

Among other things, the new primer finds:

  • Although it is hard to estimate how many people believe in different parts of QAnon, NBC News reported in August that internal Facebook documents show millions of users were members of QAnon groups on its platform.
  • Another sign of QAnon’s growth is revealed in polling:  Awareness of the conspiracy theory and its networks has roughly doubled since March among U.S. adults, according to the Pew Research Center.
  • Dozens of 2020 congressional candidates have dabbled in some form with the conspiracy theory — most of them running as Republicans — and a couple of QAnon-friendly candidates are on track to become new members of the U.S. Congress in 2021.
  • Especially since the onset of  the COVID-19 pandemic, the QAnon conspiracy theory has evolved and spread beyond the confines of right-wing internet communities and into spaces traditionally thought to be outside the realm of  such organizing, especially through the online campaign “#SaveTheChildren.”
  • A small minority of Q fans have been seemingly compelled to criminal action by the conspiracy theory. The FBI has described the conspiracy theory as a potential source of domestic terrorism and to date, QAnon followers have been charged with crimes including kidnapping, aggravated assault, terrorism, and murder.
  • QAnon has received tacit and sometimes explicit support from some in the highest ranks of the Republican Party. Despite Donald Trump’s self-professed  ignorance, he has repeatedly declined to condemn QAnon when informed of its tenets, and his Twitter account has shared, on a semi-regular basis, posts made by pro-QAnon accounts.
  • The fallout from QAnon is likely to be felt during the 2020 election and long afterward – especially since it is soon likely to have representation in the U.S. Congress.


About Right Wing Watch

Right Wing Watch is a project of People For the American Way (PFAW) dedicated to monitoring and exposing the activities and rhetoric of right-wing activists and organizations in order to expose their extreme agenda. Our researchers monitor dozens of broadcasts, emails and websites, and use their expertise on right-wing movements to analyze and distill that information for media, allies and the general public. By shedding light on the activities of the right-wing movement, we help expose the risks its extreme and intolerant agenda presents to our country. We do not endorse the views of groups that we report on. Learn more:

About People For the American Way.

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and build a democratic society that implements the ideals of freedom, equality, opportunity and justice for all. We encourage civic participation, defend fundamental rights, and fight to dismantle systemic barriers to equitable opportunityLearn more: