The Chapman University Survey of American Fears Wave 3 (2016) includes a battery of items on paranormal beliefs ranging from belief in Bigfoot and psychic powers to the extraterrestrial visitation and haunted houses.

Paranormal Beliefs 

Currently the most common paranormal belief in the United States is the belief that places can be haunted by spirits with nearly half of Americans (47%) agreeing or strongly agreeing with this statement. Nearly 40% believe that ancient, advanced civilizations such as Atlantis are a part of Earth’s past. More than a fourth believe that aliens visited Earth in our ancient past and nearly a fourth believe aliens have come to Earth in modern times. Of the items we asked about, Americans are the most skeptical about Bigfoot, with only approximately 13% of Americans expressing belief in its existence. 

Paranormal Belief Percent Agree or Strongly Agree
Places can be haunted by spirits 46.6%
Ancient, advanced civilizations, such as Atlantis, once existed 39.6%
Aliens visited Earth in our ancient past 27.0%
Aliens have come to Earth in modern times 24.7%
Some people can move objects with their mind 19.1%
Fortune tellers and psychics can foresee the future 14.1%
Bigfoot is a real creature 13.5%


The Prevalence of Paranormal Beliefs

Paranormal beliefs are quite common in the United States, if we examine how many such beliefs a person holds. Using the seven paranormal items included on the Chapman University Survey of American Fears Wave 3 (2016), we find that a bit more than a third of Americans (36.0%) do not hold any of these seven beliefs. However, this means that nearly two-thirds of Americans do believe in something paranormal.

Indeed, some Americans believe in many paranormal phenomena, as listed below:

# of Beliefs Percent
No paranormal beliefs 36.0%
1 paranormal belief 19.3%
2 paranormal beliefs 13.9%
3 paranormal beliefs 9.6%
4 paranormal beliefs 8.0%
5 paranormal beliefs 5.9%
6 paranormal beliefs 4.3%
All 7 paranormal beliefs 3.1%

Paranormal People

We examined the extent to which the following characteristics were related to holding paranormal beliefs:

  • Age
  • Church Attendance
  • Employment status
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Marital status
  • Number of children at home
  • Political party
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Region of the country
  • Religious affiliation
  • View of the Bible

The following are the personal characteristics that are significantly associated with higher levels of paranormal belief, ordered by the magnitude of the effect.

People with the highest levels of paranormal belief tend to have/be:

  • Catholic
  • Infrequent church attenders
  • Protestant or just “Christian”
  • Other (non-Christian religions)
  • Lower income
  • Lower education

Simply put, a person with high numbers of paranormal beliefs will tend to have a lower level of education and income. He or she will tend to be religious, with the exception of Judaism but attend services for that religion infrequently.