About three in four Americans have at least one belief in the paranormal, the occult or “out of this world” experiences according to a Gallup Poll conducted in the United States in 2005.
The poll, now available on the Internet, showed little statistical difference among people in the U.S. by age, education, race and region. However, belief does differ by gender. Women were more likely than men to believe in haunted houses, astrology and communicating with the dead. Men showed a slightly greater tendency than women to believe in extraterrestrial beings.
Results in the American poll were based on telephone interviews with 1,002 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted between June 6 and June 8, 2005. The Gallup Poll observed that there was a 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is within plus or minus 3 percentage points. Similar polls were conducted in Britain and Canada with almost identical results.
Following are the specific percentages of belief, not sure about or “I don’t believe” for the 13 statements read to those polled.
1: “Psychic or spiritual healing or the power of the human mind to heal the body.” 55% of the American adults polled believed in this statement, 17% were not sure, 26% didn’t believe. The Gallup Poll acknowledged that this statement did not necessarily reflect paranormal beliefs because healing powers of the mind have actually been demonstrated empirically in other studies including several revealing the suggestive power of placebos. Therefore, those believing this statement were not necessarily expressing a belief in the occult.
2: “That people on this earth are sometimes possessed by the devil.” 42% believed, 13% were not sure, 44% didn’t believe. However, the Gallup Poll noted that it was unclear from its recordings of those polled how many of the respondents really believed in an actual “devil” and how many interpreted this reference to “the devil” as a non-literal metaphor for an evil or angry emotion.
3: “ESP or Extrasensory Perception.” 41% believed, 25% were not sure, 32% didn’t believe.
4: “That houses can be haunted.” 37% believed, 16% were not sure, 46% didn’t believe.
5: “Ghosts or that spirits of dead people can come back in certain places or situations.” 32% believed, 19% were not sure, 48% didn’t believe.
6: “Telepathy or communication between minds without using the traditional five senses.” 36% believed, 26% were not sure, 35% didn’t believe.
7: “Astrology, or that the position of the stars and planets can affect people’s lives.” 25% believed, 19% were not sure, 55% didn’t believe.
8: “Clairvoyance or the power of the mind to know the past and predict the future.” 32% believed, 23% were not sure, 45% didn’t believe.
9: “That extra-terrestrial beings have visited earth at some time in the past.” 24% believed, 24 were not sure, and 51% didn’t believe. Only this item received more belief from men than women in all three countries polled: America, Britain and Canada.
Strictly speaking, the belief that visits from aliens have taken place is also acknowledged by the Gallup Poll as not necessarily part of a belief in the occult. Although definitive scientific evidence of such visits is lacking, in principle the existence of extra-terrestrial beings and their ability to visit earth is quite possible and subject to empirical verification.
10: “That people can communicate mentally with someone who has died.” 28% believed, 26% were not sure, 45% didn’t believe.
11: “Witches.” 21% believed, 12% were not sure, 66% didn’t believe. The question about witches was the only item on the list in which a solid majority of respondents in all three countries polled did not believe.
12: “Reincarnation or the rebirth of the soul in a new body after death.” 20% believed, 20% were not sure, 59% didn’t believe.
13: “Channeling/allowing a ‘spirit-being’ to temporarily assume control of body.” 9% believed, 20% were not sure, and 70% did not believe this New Age belief.
Next week in this column we will conclude this report by summarizing what other recently published polls reveal about the current interest of Americans in the occult.
Art Kunkin is the 85-year young journalist who published and edited the alternative weekly newspaper The Los Angeles Free Press starting in 1964, later becoming president of the Philosophical Research Society. He currently is a member of the Advisory Board of The Institute of Mentalphysics, also known as the Joshua Tree Retreat Center. His website, www.StopAgingRightNow.com links to his book “Life Extension Alchemy.” Please see this website for a new program where Art sends readers daily emails with personalized life extension information for stopping your own aging. Copyright 2014 by Art Kunkin. All Rights Reserve.