Ten per cent of Americans believe the chemtrails conspiracy theory is 'completely true,' with 20 to 30 per cent believing it's 'somewhat true,' a startling new study has found.
The conspiracy theory is the idea that airliners are deliberately spraying a mixture of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, with undisclosed goals that may have to do with weather modification or mind control, reports the Daily Mail.
However, none of this is true according to scientists, the US Environmental Protection Agency and investigative journalists.
The researchers behind the study say that the belief in the conspiracy theory makes having rational conversations about geoengineering - the deliberate manipulation of an environmental process that affects the Earth's climate in an attempt to counterract the effects of global warming - even more difficult.
According to the study, contrails are actually made up of water vapor and have been a byproduct of aviation ever since humans began to fly using jet engines.
The study is based on survey data collected via the Cooperative Congressional Election Study of the US electorate, which was conducted in October and November 2016 by YouGov/Polimetrix (YP).
The online poll gathered a national sample of more than 36,000 respondents, but the chemtrails question was part of an additional survey only presented to 1,000 people.
The results of the poll revealed that 10 per cent of Americans believe that the chemtrails conspiracy theory is 'completely' true, and a further 20 to 30 per cent as 'somewhat' true, with no apparent difference by political party affiliation or strength of partisanship.
The researchers also analysed social media discourse, as these platforms have enabled people to easily and sometimes widely spread messages about their beliefs.
They analysed all English tweets for the decade from May 2008 through May 2017, in addition to mentions in public posts on Facebook, YouTube, Google Plus, Tumblr, and other blogs, online forums, reviews, comments, and new items.
They looked for posts containing at least one off eleven terms, all relating to chemtrails.
They found that 60 per cent of all discourse relating to geoengineering were conspiracies about chemtrails, while neutral science reporting accounted for only 6 per cent of posts relating to geoengineering, and 25 per cent of posts being off-topic.
Of that discourse, Twitter accounted for more than 90 per cent.
According to the researchers, there is a broad online community of conspiracy theorists and the anonymity that can be provided by social media appears to help it spread.