I’ve been preoccupied over the past couple of weeks by some recently released polling data, though not the kind you might think.
I enjoy prognostications related to next year’s elections as much as the next beleaguered voter, but political polling done this far in advance doesn’t seem good for much, outside casual entertainment. Like the preseason lines Vegas sports-books release before the start of each football season, predicting who’ll win it all in the end. One quarterback injury can render those irrelevant. Just like all the political numbers-crunching in the world can be upended by a single scandal or gaffe.
The idea of generating hard numbers about something so distant seems, to me, a little far out. So, the polling I’ve been reading has to do with Unidentified Flying Objects.
A few weeks ago, Gallup released results of polls conducted this past summer to measure Americans’ views on different aspects of the UFO phenomenon. This after months of UFO-related stories appearing in the mainstream press more often than at any other time in recent memory.
That included coverage of new reporting guidelines instituted by the Navy after multiple sightings of “Unexplained Aerial Phenomena” in the area of carrier strike groups and security-sensitive facilities. These are the physics-defying flying “Tic Tacs” we’ve heard so much about in 2019.
The “Storm Area 51” Facebook event — which was largely a non-event once go-time actually arrived — was another contributor to heightened awareness of UFO-related topics. The documentary “Bob Lazar: Area 51 and Flying Saucers,” chronicling the cover-up allegations and subsequent travails of a former employee of the top secret military base, also generated lots of chatter.
In the midst of all this, how were Americans feeling about the UFO question?
According to an article at news.gallup.com (”Americans skeptical of UFOs, but say government knows more”) the findings included:
“33% of U.S. adults believe that some UFO sightings over the years have in fact been alien spacecraft visiting Earth from other planets or galaxies. The majority, 60%, are skeptical, saying that all UFO sightings can be explained by human activity or natural phenomenon, while another 7% are unsure. 16% of Americans say they have personally witnessed something they thought was a UFO while the vast majority (84%) have not.”
In keeping with the article’s headline, 68% of those polled contend the government knows more than it’s letting on about the nature of UFOs; 29% disagree, 2% have no opinion on the matter.
According to the article, “… only about half the number who think the government is hiding something about UFOs think it is covering up information about alien space landings, specifically. This conclusion is based on the finding that far fewer people give credence to UFO sightings or have witnessed them, personally, than think the government knows more than it’s telling.”
Even people who don’t necessarily think UFOs are attributable to alien visitation think the government’s keeping something from us. That seems about right.
Some other interesting poll results: Fifty-six percent of respondents believe those who report seeing UFOs are seeing something — it’s not just their imagination. Forty-nine percent think beings “somewhat like ourselves” exist some other place in the universe. (No doubt, they’re distrustful of government as well.) Fully 75% of those asked think life in some form or fashion exists on other planets.
Here’s my favorite result from the polling. Though UFO believers are found throughout society, people who live in the west are especially likely to be on board.
“That is the home of Area 51, as well as nearby Roswell, New Mexico — where a crash of some kind in 1947 sparked the Area 51 conspiracy theories that persist to this day,” the Gallup article reminds us.
In this part of the country, 40% believe some UFO sightings can be attributed to aliens, according to the poll. That compares to 32% of people back east and in the south, and 27% of stolid midwesterners.
Residents of the west are also more likely to have personally observed a UFO. Twenty percent of those in the west say they have, versus 12% of easterners and “15%-16% elsewhere,” the article states.
Maybe there are simply more UFOs out here to see.
Once, years ago, I had to make a choice between working at a paper in the Chihuahuan Desert and a paper … elsewhere. Site visits to both places made it an easy call: I traveled west. If UFOs exist, and are in fact piloted by aliens, one could hardly blame them for making the obvious choice.
John Dilmore is editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are those of the author.