The recently released Chapman University Survey of American Fears Wave 4 (2017 edition) includes a number of items on paranormal beliefs ranging from belief in Bigfoot and psychic powers to visits by aliens and haunted houses.

Currently the most common paranormal belief in the United States is the belief that ancient, advanced civilizations, such as Atlantis once exited with more than half of respondents (55%) agreeing or strongly agreeing with this statement.

52% believe that places can be haunted by spirits.

More than a third (35%) believe that that aliens visited Earth in our ancient past and more than a fourth believe aliens have come to Earth in modern times (26%).

Of the items in question, Americans are the most skeptical about Bigfoot, with only approximately 16% of Americans expressing belief in its existence.

Paranormal belief in America

Prevalence of Paranormal Beliefs

Paranormal beliefs are quite common in the United States, especially if we look at how many such beliefs a person holds.

Using the seven paranormal items included in the chart, we see that only a quarter of Americans (25.3%) do not hold any of these seven beliefs. However, this means that nearly three quarters of Americans actually do believe in something paranormal.

Some Americans believe in many paranormal phenomena, as listed below:


What Does a Paranormal Believer Look Like?

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:

  • Lower income
  • Report themselves as highly religious
  • Attend religious services infrequently
  • Female
  • Conservative
  • Either single or cohabitating
  • “Other race” – not white, black or Hispanic
  • Living in a rural area
  • West coast resident

Simply put, the person with the highest number of paranormal beliefs in the United States as of 2017 will tend to be a lower income, female living in a rural area in the Western states. She tends to be politically conservative and claims to be highly religious, although she actually attends religious services infrequently. She is either currently single or cohabitating with someone and reports her race as “other.”



Survey of American Fears (pdf)

Chapman University


  1. I wonder about what would surely be the paranormal conviction of the largest percentage, a belief in a god or gods. Though Question #1 in the survey was indeed a query about the respondents’ religious faith, it seems to have been only tangential to the seven examples studied.

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