The Weiler Psi

Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics

Who Believes in Psi? (What the polls say)


This is culled from the book: Best Evidence by Michael Schmicker.  The book is a very well written overview of the state of the science of Parapsychology up until the year 2001.  (Copyrighted 2002).   It’s a book I can comfortably recommend.  The information is taken primarily from Chapter 1.

1990 Gallup opinion poll:

93% of Americans polled believed in one or more of 18 paranormal phenomena offered for consideration.

Half believed in 5 or more and three out of four had actually experienced at least one of these phenomena with half experiencing more than three.  These included mental telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis (a.k.a. telekinesis), mental healing, ghosts, channeling the dead, near death experiences, reincarnation and UFO’s.

25% had experienced telepathy

25% had success with mental healing

17% had communicated with the deceased

14% had been in a haunted house.

9 % had seen or felt a ghost

8% had experienced reincarnation

7% had seen a psychokinesis display.

May 2001 follow up gallup poll:

Belief had actually increased in twelve out of the thirteen phenomena measured in both 1990 and 2001. and increased by 5% or more in seven of them.

ESP:  1 out of 2 Americans (50%)  27% don’t believe and the rest are undecided.

Mental Telepathy:  1 out of 3 Americans (36%)

Clairvoyance:  1 out of 3 Americans (32%)

Psychokinesis:  1 out of 5 Americans (17%)

Mental and Spiritual Healing:  1 out of 2 Americans (54%)  26% don’t believe.

Correlating Education and belief in psi:  They study found that “Americans with the highest level of education are more likely to believe in the power of the mind to heal the body.”  (The same is true for ESP and telepathy according to the poll.)

Ghosts:  4 out of 10 Americans (38%) up 13% from the previous decade.

Haunted Houses:  4 out of 10 Americans (42%)  up 13% from the previous decade.

Communication with the Dead:  3 out of 10 Americans (28%)

Channeling:  More than 1 in 10 Americans (15%) up 4% from previous decade.

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans (28%) believe “that people can hear from or communicate mentally with someone who has died,”  up 10% from previous decade.

Side note:  Omni Magazine Aug. 1988:  University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center found that 42% of Americans say they have been in contact with someone who has died.  Among widows and widowers the rate of contact with the deceased jumps to almost two thirds.

Life After Death:  2 out of 3 Americans (65%)

1993 New England Journal of Medicine:

34% of adult Americans reported using at least one unconventional therapy in the past year including guided imagery, energy healing, spiritual healing , prayer, biofeedback and hypnosis.

Who are the people who believe in psi?  This information is culled from Chapter 2 of Michael Schmicker’s book.  (Please read the book!)

Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Upton Sinclair, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Russell Wallace (co-founded the theory of evolution), Edgar Mitchell (former astronaut), Chester Carlson (Xerox inventor), James S. McDonnell (McDonnell Douglas planes), Laurence S. Rockefeller, Michael Crichton, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, Margaret Mead, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Winston Churchill, Warren Harding, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford and George Patton to name a few.

In a paper by psychologist Harvey J. Irwin titled:  Belief in the Paranormal: A Review of Empirical Literature:

There is a positive correlation between intelligence and paranormal belief.

A sample of high school students found that higher grade point averages correlated positively with belief in psi.

Students enrolled in the natural or biological sciences had greater belief in the paranormal than did students of the humanities.

A June 1984 poll of Psychology Today readers found that 90% of the 600 poll respondents believed in the authenticity of paranormal phenomena  (56% of readers are in management, 60% have a college education and median income is $t53,000.   -1992 readership profile-)

83% accepted the validity of ESP

More than 50% accepted the reality of UFO’s, faith healing and ghosts

4% accepted reincarnation.

1993 New England Journal of Medicine

A survey cited in chapter 1 found that alternative medicine -mind-body healing, energy healing and spiritual healing is most likely to be parcticed by the affluent (incomes above $35,000), college educated people between 25 and 49.

1989 CBS television poll done in conjunction with “48 hours” found 64% of respondents believed in the existence of paranormal phenomena and 75% of persons with a college degree believed in the paranormal.  36% of people with a high school diploma believed in the paranormal.

What these poll numbers show is that the idea of psychic phenomena being a marginalized activity only experienced by highly impressionable and easily fooled people is not true.  This demonstrates that this is far more common than most people realize.  I think having these facts helps in understanding the scope of the phenomena.

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One comment on “Who Believes in Psi? (What the polls say)

  1. Pingback: The Fine Line Between Rational Thought and Belief « The Weiler Psi

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