Aliens in Disguise: 1 in 5 Say it Came from Outer Space

Aliens in Disguise: 1 in 5 Say it Came from Outer Space
April 2010
Posted By: Zachary Turpin
Book of Odds

We already know that 1 in 2.94 American adults believe in UFOs. Now there is a Reuters News poll revealing that 1 in 5 people worldwide believe we do indeed live in a kind of Men in Black world: namely that "aliens walk among us disguised as humans." Before you laugh off this finding, take into consideration that this was no small sampling. Over 23,000 people in 23 countries were surveyed.

So who are these folks who believe in camouflaged aliens, and what do they know that the rest of us (80% or 1 in 1.25) don’t?

We may have to go to China and India to find out. As it turns out, those are the countries with the highest percentages of believers. Forty-five percent of Indian respondents, and 42% of Chinese, believe in incognito ETs. The believers come from all economic brackets, tend to be men (22% of male respondents believe, 17% of women), and are generally 35 and under.

On the other end of the spectrum, northern European countries like Belgium, Sweden, and the Netherlands contain the fewest believers: only 8% each. The poll was conducted for Reuters by Ipsos, whose vice-president, John Wright, speculates that "in a less populated country, you are more likely to know your next door neighbor better"—and thus have a certain confidence that he or she has not been body-snatched.

It is a curious and fascinating poll, and Book of Odds went to the source to find out exactly how it was conducted.

First, the polling question itself: Reuters chief sub-editor Miral Fahmy tells us that it was phrased as follows: "Do you believe that aliens have come down to earth, and live in our communities, disguised as humans?" The phrasing leaves little room for ambiguity, or a charge that the question was phrased in a way to elicit certain answers—as could be the case if the phrasing had been, "Do you agree with many people who say aliens are among us?" The implication that many people already hold a certain opinion or belief can skew polling results, as was lately theorized about a recent Harris poll in which almost 1 in 5 American respondents agreed that Obama may be the Antichrist. It turns out the question was prefaced by the statement, “Here are some things people have said about President Obama.”

As for the specific nations polled, and their discrete sample sizes, Fahmy informed Book of Odds that Ipsos polled first-world nations, who together account for about three quarters of the world GDP. The nations are: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and the United States. Aside from Antarctica, the only unrepresented continent is Africa.

Roughly 1,000 people were polled per country, in online panels. The results were then weighted to account for a country’s demographics, which, reports Fahmy, “ensures that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to the most recent country Census data.”

On the cultural end, a detail to consider is how the word “alien” itself was translated. A loose translation, with connotations like "spirit" or "ghost," might influence responses. Furthermore, the idea of "alien" may vary by culture—may or may not pre-exist in a given mythos. Take India: the Ramayana Veda, an ancient Hindu epic, depicts flying chariots of the gods called vimānas as "resembling a bright cloud in the sky… [rising] into the higher atmosphere." Very extra-terrestrial. A culture whose myths include flying vehicles or space invaders might be more inclined to believe in aliens.

However, there is no evidence that there was any confusion over the meaning of the word, and we are left to conclude that this is a thoughtful, well conducted poll—which reveals that 20% of us really do believe in masked Martians.

Even leaving the Vedas alone, though, why shouldn't they believe in UFOs? 1 in 2.94 American adults does.

One final note: the Reuters survey concerns not merely aliens, but aliens disguised as humans, who are among us although we don't know it. How the 1 in 5 respondents knew it is unclear—perhaps a few are aliens themselves.

Time to give Men in Black another watch.
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