Survey Says Americans Believe in Aliens

More than a quarter think alien societies would resemble human ones — but they’re wrong about UFO visitations

Image: KTSDesign/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

EEven scientists who are actively involved in the search for alien life in the cosmos don’t like to speculate about exactly what they might found out there, as Medium editor-at-large Steve LeVine discovered when he wrote an in-depth feature on the subject for OneZero. A little too sci-fi, and not quite scientific enough, even as researchers discover ever more exoplanets — planets located beyond our Solar System, including those that might just be habitable to life.

But Americans as a whole feel differently. According to an exclusive survey of over 1,000 adults carried out by Ipsos for OneZero, a majority of Americans — 57 percent — believe there is intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy. More than a quarter believe that those alien societies, if they exist, would resemble ours — a conclusion that some of the experts LeVine spoke agree with, on the grounds that same geological and evolutionary forces that drive the development of intelligent life on Earth would operate elsewhere.

Matters get a little dicier when it comes to actual visitations from aliens. Forty-five percent of those surveyed believe that UFOs exist and have visited the Earth. That’s less likely, given that even the closest potentially habitable exoplanet — Proxima Centauri b — is four light-years away from Earth. That means a one-way trip would take four years for a UFO traveling at the speed of light — which, as far as physicists know, is impossible. A craft traveling at the speed of today’s rockets would take some 20,000 years. Any contact between aliens and humans is far more likely to happen via radio than face to face.

Journalist, author, dad. Former TIME magazine editor and foreign correspondent. Author of END TIMES, a book about existential risk and the end of the world.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store