One Third of Americans Believe in Ghosts

by Darren K. Carlson

Witch costume favorite among trick-or-treating children this Halloween

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A person foreign to the United States may find the American celebration of Halloween a somewhat curious event. The holiday, celebrated on October 31, combines elaborate costumes, tasty treats, and belief in the supernatural into one evening. The latest Gallup poll goes to the heart of the elements that comprise this unique holiday.

About two-thirds of Americans say that someone in their family will be giving out treats from their home on Halloween this year, while a third say they will not. The number of Americans saying they will give out treats is down very slightly from last year -- 65% this year compared to 69% last year.

The poll shows that those families with the highest income levels are most likely to say they are giving out treats this year. Among those respondents whose household incomes are more than $50,000, 73% said they are giving out treats, compared to 67% among those with incomes between $49,000 and $30,000, 56% for those making between $29,000 and $39,000 and 57% among those making $20,000 or less.

What Will People Be Wearing?
Over three-quarters -- 78% -- of parents with children under the age of 15 say that they their children will wear a Halloween costume this year. Despite all the characters and fads that have emerged over the course of the year, a traditional favorite still tops the list of what children will be wearing this Halloween -- among parents whose children will be wearing costumes, 8% say their child will be going as a witch. The other favorites included princess costumes (mentioned by 4%), Pokemon (4%), Power Rangers (3%), and clowns (3%). Last year's favorite, Batman, is mentioned this year by only 2% of parents whose children will be wearing costumes.

What costumes will your child or children be wearing?

BASED ON -- 288 -- PARENTS OF CHILDREN WEARING COSTUMES; ± 4 PCT PTS

 

 

2000 Oct
25-28

1999 Oct
21-24

     
 

%

%

Witch

8

4

Princess

4

3

Pokemon

4

4

Power Ranger

3

--

Clown

3

3

Batman

2

5

Ghost

2

3

Pumpkin

2

2

Ninja

2

2

Cheerleader

2

2

Non-Violent/Non-Scary Costume

2

--

"Scream" Costume

2

--

Homemade Costume (unspecified)

2

--

Wrestler

2

--

Cat

2

--

Angel

2

3

Athlete (football/baseball, etc)

2

3

Lady Bug

2

1

Hippie/60's style costume

2

--

Bride

2

--

Lion

2

--

     

Other

13

48

No opinion

26

23



Many adults celebrate Halloween along with their children, or attend Halloween parties with their adult friends. The Gallup poll shows that 13% of adults say they will be wearing a Halloween costume this year. Younger Americans are much more likely to be wearing costumes than those who are older. Twenty-two percent of 18-29 year olds said they will wear them, compared to 14% of 30-49 year olds, 10% of 50-64 year olds and just 3% of those over age 65. The more traditional costumes do well with adults as 5% said they would go as a witch, 4% said vampire/Dracula and another 4% said they would go as a devil this Halloween.

The Supernatural
When the trick-or-treaters scurry from house to house, are they hurrying to get more candy or are they trying to keep one step ahead of the ghosts, witches, and other things that inhabit the Halloween night? Gallup cannot answer that question specifically, of course, but the Halloween poll does show that the American public's belief in ghosts and witches has increased substantially since the question was first asked in 1978. Currently, 31% of American adults say they believe in ghosts, and 22% say they believe in witches. In 1978, just 11% of the public said they believed in ghosts and the same percentage said they believed in witches.

Who is it that believes in witches and ghosts? Men were more likely than women to say they believe in witches (24% to 20%), while the opposite is true about ghosts (women were more likely than men to say they believe in ghosts -- 34% to 27%). Admitting to a belief in ghosts also decreases with age. Forty-four percent of 18-29 year olds said they believe in ghosts, compared to 38% of those ages 30-49, 19% of those between 50-64, and just 13% of those over the age of 65.

Survey Methods

The results reported here are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,004 adults, 18 years and older, conducted October 25-28, 2000. For results based on the whole sample, 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.

Will you or someone in your family be giving out Halloween treats from the door of your home on Halloween this year?

 

 

Yes

No

No opinion

       

2000 Oct 25-28

65%

34

1

       

1999 Oct 21-24

69%

30

1

1985 Oct 24^

69%

30

1

       

^ABC/Washington Post



Do you have any children under the age of fifteen?

 

Yes

No

No opinion

       

2000 Oct 25-28

37%

63

*

       

1999 Oct 21-24

36%

64

*



Will any of your children be wearing a costume this year at Halloween, or not?

BASED ON -- 338 -- PARENTS OF CHILDREN UNDER 15; ± 5 PCT PTS

 

Yes

No

No opinion

       

2000 Oct 25-28

78%

19

3

       

1999 Oct 21-24

84%

14

2



Will you, personally, be wearing a costume this year at Halloween, or not?

 

Yes

No

No opinion

       

2000 Oct 25-28

13%

85

2



What costumes will you be wearing?

BASED ON -- 123 -- RESPONDENTS WEARING COSTUMES; ± 6 PCT PTS

 

 

2000 Oct
25-28

   
 

%

Witch

5

Vampire/Dracula

4

Devil

4

Clown

3

Angel

3

Knight

2

Bumblebee

2

Werewolf

2

Old Man/Lady

2

Gypsy

2

Mask (unspecified)

2

Hippie/60's style

1

Britney Spears

1

Non-violent/ Non-scary costume

1

Spiderman

1

Cat

1

Cowboy/Cowgirl

1

Wrestler

1

50's style costume

1

Tiger

1

Soldier

1

Cheerleader

1

Biker

1

Pirate

1

Tigger (fromWinnie the Pooh)

1

Fairy

1

   

Other

28

No opinion

26



Do you believe in witches?

BASED ON -- 489 -- NATIONAL ADULTS ASKED FORM A; ± 4 PCT PTS

 

Yes

No

No opinion

       

2000 Oct 25-28

22%

77

1

       

1999 Oct 21-24

22%

77

1

1978 Feb 27

11%

89

*



Do you believe in ghosts?

BASED ON -- 515 -- NATIONAL ADULTS ASKED FORM B; ± 4 PCT PTS

 

Yes

No

No opinion

       

2000 Oct 25-28

31%

67

2

       

1999 Oct 21-24

33%

65

2

1978 Feb 27

11%

89

*



*Less than 0.5%

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