Americas

Three in Four Americans Believe in Paranormal

Little change from similar results in 2001

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- About three in four Americans profess at least one paranormal belief, according to a recent Gallup survey. The most popular is extrasensory perception (ESP), mentioned by 41%, followed closely by belief in haunted houses (37%). The full list of items includes:

Believe in

%

Extrasensory perception, or ESP

41

That houses can be haunted

37

Ghosts/that spirits of dead people can come back in certain places/situations

32

Telepathy/communication between minds without using traditional senses

31

Clairvoyance/the power of the mind to know the past and predict the future

26

Astrology, or that the position of the stars and planets can affect people's lives

25

That people can communicate mentally with someone who has died

21

Witches

21

Reincarnation, that is, the rebirth of the soul in a new body after death

20

Channeling/allowing a 'spirit-being' to temporarily assume control of body

9

A special analysis of the data shows that 73% of Americans believe in at least one of the 10 items listed above, while 27% believe in none of them. A Gallup survey in 2001 provided similar results -- 76% professed belief in at least one of the 10 items.

Number of
paranormal items
people believe in

Percent

Cumulative
percent

10

1%

1%

9

2

3

8

3

6

7

3

9

6

6

15

5

7

22

4

10

32

3

11

43

2

14

57

1

16

73

None

27

100

The "cumulative percent" column shows that more than one-fifth of all Americans, 22%, believe in five or more items, 32% believe in at least four items, and more than half, 57%, believe in at least two paranormal items. Only 1% believe in all 10 items.

Three other items included in the survey, but which do not necessarily reflect paranormal beliefs, include beliefs in "psychic or spiritual healing or the power of the human mind to heal the body," "that people on earth are sometimes possessed by the devil," and "that extra-terrestrial beings have visited earth at some time in the past."

The healing powers of the mind have been demonstrated empirically, reflected in the power of placebos, among other examples. More than half of Americans, 55%, believe in this connection.

The poll shows that 42% of Americans believe that "people on this earth are sometimes possessed by the devil." However, it is unclear how many people treat that statement literally, and how many interpret it in metaphorical terms. Thus, for purposes of this analysis, that item was excluded.

Strictly speaking, visits from aliens are not part of paranormal beliefs. Although definitive scientific evidence of such visits is lacking, in principle the existence of extra-terrestrial beings and their ability to visit earth are subject to empirical verification.

All of the other 10 items listed above require the belief that humans have more than the "normal" five senses.

Comparison by Demographic Subgroups

The poll shows no statistically significant differences among people by age, gender, education, race, and region of the country. Christians are a little more likely to hold some paranormal beliefs than non-Christians (75% vs. 66%, respectively), but both groups show a sizeable majority with such beliefs.

Several items show modest declines since 2001 in the percentage of people who profess to believe in them, though the overall percentage of people with at least one paranormal belief has declined only slightly -- from 76% in 2001 to 73% now.

The largest declines since 2001 are found in the number of people who believe in ESP (41% now compared with 50% in 2001), clairvoyance (26% now, 32% in 2001), ghosts (32% vs. 38%), mentally communicating with the dead (21% vs. 28%), and channeling (9% vs. 15%).

Survey Methods

Results in the current survey are based on telephone interviews with 1,002 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 6-8, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±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.

21. For each of the following items I am going to read you, please tell me whether it is something you believe in, something you're not sure about, or something you don't believe in. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

2005 Jun 6-8
(sorted by "believe in")

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe

%

%

%

Psychic or spiritual healing or the power of the human mind to heal the body

55

17

26

That people on this earth are sometimes possessed by the devil

42

13

44

ESP or Extrasensory Perception

41

25

32

That houses can be haunted

37

16

46

Ghosts/that spirits of dead people can come back in certain places/situations

32

19

48

Telepathy/communication between minds without using traditional senses

31

27

42

Clairvoyance/the power of the mind to know the past and predict the future

26

24

50

Astrology, or that the position of the stars and planets can affect people's lives

25

19

55

That extra-terrestrial beings have visited earth at some time in the past

24

24

51

That people can communicate mentally with someone who has died

21

23

55

Witches

21

12

66

Reincarnation, that is, the rebirth of the soul in a new body after death

20

20

59

Channeling/allowing a 'spirit-being' to temporarily assume control of body

9

20

70

A. ESP or Extrasensory Perception

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Jun 6-8

41

25

32

2

2001 May 10-14

50

20

27

3

1996 Sep 3-5

48

22

27

3

1990 Jun 14-17

49

22

29

--


B. That people on this earth are sometimes possessed by the devil

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Jun 6-8

42

13

44

1

2001 May 10-14

41

16

41

2

1996 Sep 3-5

42

13

43

2

1991 Oct 24-27

37

18

45

--

1990 Jun 14-17

49

16

35

--


C. Psychic or spiritual healing or the power of the human mind to heal the body

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Jun 6-8

55

17

26

2

2001 May 10-14

54

19

26

1

1990 Jun 14-17

46

20

34

--

D. Telepathy, or communication between minds without using the traditional five senses

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Jun 6-8

31

27

42

*

2001 May 10-14

36

26

35

3

1996 Sep 3-5

35

24

39

2

1990 Jun 14-17

36

25

39

--

* Less than 0.5%


E. That houses can be haunted

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Jun 6-8

37

16

46

1

2001 May 10-14

42

16

41

1

1996 Sep 3-5

33

19

47

1

1991 Oct 24-27

28

18

54

--

1990 Jun 14-17

29

17

54

--


F. That extra-terrestrial beings have visited earth at some time in the past

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Jun 6-8

24

24

51

1

2001 May 10-14

33

27

38

2

1990 Jun 14-17

27

32

41

--


G. Clairvoyance, or the power of the mind to know the past and predict the future

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Jun 6-8

26

24

50

*

2001 May 10-14

32

23

45

*

1996 Sep 3-5

27

25

46

2

1990 Jun 14-17

26

23

51

--

* Less than 0.5%

H. Astrology, or that the position of the stars and planets can affect people's lives

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Jun 6-8

25

19

55

1

2001 May 10-14

28

18

52

2

1996 Sep 3-5

25

22

52

1

1994 Dec 16-18

23

16

61

--

1990 Jun 14-17

25

21

54

--

I. Ghosts or that spirits of dead people can come back in certain places and situations

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Jun 6-8

32

19

48

1

2001 May 10-14

38

17

44

1

1996 Sep 3-5

30

19

50

1

1991 Oct 24-27

28

17

55

--

1990 Jun 14-17

25

19

56

--

J. Reincarnation, that is, the rebirth of the soul in a new body after death

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe

No opinion

2005 Jun 6-8

20

20

59

1

2001 May 10-14

25

20

54

1

1996 Sep 3-5

22

22

55

1

1994 Dec 16-18

27

20

53

--

1990 Jun 14-17

21

22

57

--

K. That people can hear from or communicate mentally with someone who has died

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Jun 6-8

21

23

55

1

2001 May 10-14

28

26

46

*

1996 Sep 3-5

20

22

56

2

1994 Dec 16-18

28

21

51

--

1990 Jun 14-17

18

20

62

--

* Less than 0.5%


L. Witches

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Jun 6-8

21

12

66

1

2001 May 10-14

26

15

59

*

1996 Sep 3-5

19

11

69

1

1991 Oct 24-27

16

13

71

--

1990 Jun 14-17

14

8

78

--

* Less than 0.5%


M. Channeling, or allowing a 'spirit-being' to temporarily assume control of a human body during a trance

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Jun 6-8

9

20

70

1

2001 May 10-14

15

21

62

2

1996 Sep 3-5

12

21

64

3

1990 Jun 14-17

11

22

67

--

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/16915/Three-Four-Americans-Believe-Paranormal.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030