Poll of Canadians
A survey of Canadians regarding beliefs and attitudes towards the subject of nidentified flying bjects (UFOs) was conducted by an independent research network. The results suggest that almost ten per cent of all Canadians believe they have seen a UFO and that belief in the existence of extraterrestrial life is very high among the general population, confirming results from other surveys conducted by national and international professional polling organizations.
During August 1997, Ufology Research of Manitoba (UFOROM) requested the assistance of independent, civilian UFO groups for a project surveying Canadians on their belief and attitude concerning unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Participating groups were solicited on the basis of their record of investigation and active contribution to Canadian ufology. Participating groups were:
During the period of one week, Canadians were surveyed in five cities across the country. Surveys were conducted randomly either in person in public locations or by telephone. Each pollster used an identical set of questions. (A literal translation of the survey from English into French was used in Quebec.)
Survey results were collected and forwarded to UFOROM where each respondent’s answers were coded and entered into a computer database. Data was entered in MicroSoft Access, then translated into Excel and later into a file readable by SPSS for Windows so that analyses could be performed.
A total of 167 respondents provided data for the survey. Age breakdown was a good cross-section of the populace, as follows:
The number of respondents varied from city to city, as follows:
The educational background of the respondents varied as follows:
Gender distribution was very nearly equal:
Survey Questions Related To UFOs
In response to the question: “Do you believe in the existence of life elsewhere in the universe?” people answered:
This overwhelming positive response suggests that most Canadians believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life. We can speculate that this is likely related to the intense media attention devoted to science fiction concepts in today’s society. This result is comparable to a 1996 Angus Reid poll which found that 70% of the Canadian population believed in the existence of extraterrestrial life. A 1985 Roper poll found only 41% of the American population believed likewise.
In response to the question: “Do you believe that some UFOs are alien spacecraft?” people answered:
The qualifier ‘some’ obviously created a problem for some respondents. Other polls have asked “Are UFOs real?” without qualifying “real” to respondents. In those studies, Roper (1985) found that 25% responded positively, whereas Gallup (1990) found 27% responded positively. It is thought that the qualifier affected the results. Yes, this survey suggests that more than half of the population believes aliens are presently visiting Earth.
The big question of interest to ufologists was the query: “Have you ever seen a UFO?” In the present survey, the results were:
Nearly one in ten Canadians believe they have seen UFOs. In terms of population, this translates into a staggering 3 million Canadians who are UFO witnesses. While this seems high, it should be noted that according to studies of UFO data, only a small percentage of UFO reports remain unexplainable after investigation. In other words, a large number of people claim to have seen UFOs does not translate into a large number of actual “real” unknown objects seen. (And, it should be noted, an unexplained UFO does not automatically mean that a spaceship was seen by a witness.)
This result compares very well with other polls. A 1978 Gallup poll found that 9% of the American population had seen UFOs, a 1985 Roper poll found 7% and a 1996 Newsweek poll found 12% had seen UFOs.
But this question is even more useful with the accompanying
question, asked of UFO witnesses: “Did you report the UFO to any civilian
or government organization?” The responses to this confirm what has
been suspected by ufologists for some time, namely, that most UFOs go unreported:
Only slightly over 12 per cent of UFO sightings are reported. This means that out of the 3 million which were seen by Canadians, only about 375,000 were officially reported. This is still a large number, but is more easily to reconcile with the numbers of reports on file with various agencies.
For example, other studies of Canadian UFO data
have found that an average of about 250 UFO reports are made each year.
Knowing that only one in ten are reported, this means that 2500 sightings
actually take place. Further, studies show that UFO sightings are most
often witnesses by more than one person at a time. This means that at least
5,000 people see UFOs each year. If we calculate that the living population
of Canadians who have seen UFOs in their lifetimes is uniform each year
(and assuming people only see UFOs once in their lifetimes), we can multiply
the number of UFO witnesses each year by at least 50 years to give the
number of living Canadians who have seen UFOs. This figure is 250,000,
only a factor of 12 smaller than the number
Another approach to UFO reporting was to ask people: “If you ever saw a UFO, to whom would you report it?” This question was asked specifically of people who said they had not seen a UFO, in order to understand how the issue of reporting would be approached should the opportunity arise. The answers are interesting in their trends and dispersion:
The results are arranged in order from a scale whereby witnesses are not comfortable with telling others about their sightings to an extreme where they tell anyone and everyone. The five most common responses are interesting, with nearly identical percentages: No one, a UFO group, Not sure, Police and Government. (Curiously, very few people said they would report UFOs to the military, implying, perhaps, that there is some distrust or uncertainty about that specific kind of authority.)
In Canada, ‘police’ and ‘RCMP’ are highly analogous, so we may be justified in combining the two categories to produce the largest group at 18%. This could be a concern, because there is no concerted effort or mandate for police or RCMP to investigate UFOs at this time. What would be done with the reports? Under what section of the criminal code would they be approached? Noise complaint?
Even worse is the number of people who would report UFOs to the government (16.5%). With a bit of thought, this avenue is quite unacceptable. The National Research Council of Canada ceased accepting UFO reports in 1995. At the present time, there is no official government body which is in any way interested in public UFO reports. This might pose a problem to those respondents if they were to ever actually see a UFO.
The percentage of people who would not tell anyone about their UFO experience (14.4%) is at odds with that of people who have seen UFOs and admit they did not make an official report (81.3%). We can note that the actual witnessing of a UFO would cause most people to hesitate before reporting their sighting.
Only 14.4% would actually report their sighting to a UFO group or organization. Obviously, this would depend on the witness knowing how to contact a group in his or her area.
When we correlate the results of this question with the age of respondents we find a strong relationship (p<.05). Older people tended toward reporting sightings to authorities such as police and government, whereas younger people would tend only to tell friends and family. This might suggest that there is still some distrust of authority among younger adults.
Belief in a military or government cover-up also produced interesting results. “Do you believe there is a military or government cover-up regarding the existence of UFOs?”
More than half the population feel that information about UFOs is being withheld from the general public. This compares well with the Newsweek poll (1996) which found 49% of the American population believed there was a cover-up.
Finally, respondents were asked if anyone else in their families had seen UFOs?
The small percentage of positive responses suggests that UFO witnesses probably do not come from a family with a history of experiencing anomalous phenomena. This is a complex issue that could be explored by researchers in other studies.
A number of significant correlations were found between factors within the data. The capitalized titles are abbreviations used in coding and correlating the data.
AGE was negatively correlated with COVER-UP (p=.007). This means that older people tended not to believe in a cover-up, but younger adults did. This is perhaps related to a generational difference in trust in government.
COVER-UP was also negatively correlated with EDUCATION (p=.032). People with greater education tended not to believe in a cover-up.
AGE was very strongly negatively correlated with belief in extraterrestrial life, THE (p=.000). Older people are very likely not to believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life, but younger adults almost certainly hold such a belief.
What is interesting is that a strong belief in THE is correlated strongly with belief in a COVER-UP (p=.000). It perhaps makes sense that if a person believes that there is life elsewhere in the universe, he or she might think the government or military would have this same knowledge and were withholding it because there is no open acceptance of this fact.
UFOALIEN was negatively correlated with AGE (p=.000). Older Canadians were unwilling to accept that some UFOs were alien spacecraft.
However, UFOALIEN was strongly correlated with COVER-UP (p=.000). People who believe UFOs are alien spacecraft definitely think that there is a suppression of this knowledge.
YESREPORT was correlated with COVER-UP (p=.018). This implies that people who have seen a UFO are more likely to believe there is a cover-up. This is probably because to their own satisfaction, UFOs exist, against denials of that fact by government and military organizations.
Only a weak correlation was found between EDUCATION and UFOALIEN (p=.094). It has long been thought that there was a relationship between the amount of education and a belief in UFOs as alien spacecraft, but this was only slightly indicated.
Curiously, there was a significant correlation found between gender and the question of others in a witness’ family who have seen a UFO. For unknown reasons, more women than men reported that others in their families had seen UFOs (p=.006). At present, we have no way of interpreting this with confidence, other than by noting that women may tend to know more than men about matters within their families.
Highlights of the survey
Based on survey data:
This was a preliminary study which attempted to coordinate Canadian UFO-related organizations in a national research project. Although UFO groups tend to function independently, a pooling of resources has always been considered as a possibility for research projects. In the past, however, sharing of information and coordinated efforts have not been entirely successful. The results of the present study may pave the way for future cooperative ventures in scientific ufology.
The survey had a number of limitations which likely affected its results. First and foremost, the small sample size and uneven representation across the country may have caused biases to enter into the data. Future surveys and polls will have to address this problem. A second issue was raised because of the independent nature of ufology itself. Each of the participating groups may have used slightly different methods in selecting respondents, and randomness may have been compromised as a result.
Another factor is that polling generally took place in metropolitan centres and may not reflect geographic and demographic differences from coast to coast. Maritime Canada was not represented, and neither were the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan and the North. Although polling may have covered most of the primary population centres in Canada, it is possible that there would be major differences in respondents if all provinces and territories were included. However, the logistical problems in acquiring data from remote regions and provinces without organized UFO groups for human resources are not insignificant. Yet we must note that the quality of information obtained in this pilot study may indicate that such a major effort is warranted and should be explored.
Acknowledgements Without the active participation of independent UFO groups, this study would have been impossible. Appreciation is given to the groups: UFO*BC (Vancouver), Seekers (Brandon), UFOROM (Winnipeg), MUFON Ontario (Toronto) and SOS OVNI Quebec (Montreal). Individual thanks go to Dave Pengilly, Gavin McLeod, Graham Conway, Bill Oliver, Brian Fidler, Dave Creighton, Steve Hladkyj, Errol Bruce-Knapp, Sue Kovios, Tom Theofanous, Victor Viggiani, Drew Williamson, Victor Lorenco, Jacques Poulet and Riccardo Melfi.
Angus Reid/Southam News Poll (1996). Canadians on the possible existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. Released September 10, 1996.
Durant, Robert (1997). Public opinion polls and UFOs. In: UFO 1947-1997: Fifty years of flying saucers. London: Fortean Times.
Reuters/Variety News Poll (1996). Nearly half of
all Americans think the government is hiding proof of UFOs from the public.
Released July 1, 1996.
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This page was created on Wednesday, May 23rd, 1999