A new Gallup poll of 1,522 adults in the United States found that one-third of respondents believe extraterrestrial spacecraft are visiting Earth.
When asked to choose between "some UFOs have been alien spacecraft visiting Earth from other planets or galaxies" and "all UFO sightings can be explained by human activity on Earth or natural phenomenon," 33 percent of all adults polled selected the first option.
Demographic groups more likely to believe in visiting alien spaceships include the young (18-29), non-college graduates and the irreligious, with respondents in those categories trending toward 40 percent. But even with variation across demographic groups, no category fell below 27 percent of respondents describing some UFOs as alien spacecraft.
The poll even found an interesting regional bump, with people from the West far more likely to prefer the extraterrestrial hypothesis. Midwesterners, on the other hand, were most skeptical of aliens coming to this planet. Belief in extraterrestrial vessels entering Earth's atmosphere was consistent across gender identity and within the margin of sampling error across income groups.
While the majority of Americans don't believe aliens are visiting our planet, three-quarters believe that extraterrestrial life exists on other planets, with half of Americans going further and agreeing that "people somewhat like ourselves exist elsewhere in the universe."
The search for extraterrestrial life as practiced by scientists has little to do with the UFO phenomena, with research projects like Breakthrough Listen focusing their search on stars and distant galactic centers in a search of radio signals and optical laser transmissions.
While the extraterrestrial explanation for the UFO aerial phenomena represents a substantial minority of the United States, a large majority agree that the government of the United States knows "more about UFOs than it is telling us." In 1996, 71 percent of those polled answered "Yes" to the same description of a government withholding UFO disclosures. That figure remains consistent with 2019, at 68 percent, with results that Gallup describes as "similar among all main demographic groups," including party identification.
The results are surprising in light of widespread disclosures regarding military UFO programs and the political mainstreaming of the phenomena — including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton, who repeatedly advanced the possibility of UFO disclosure during her 2016 presidential campaign. Blockbuster revelations around Pentagon programs tracking UFOs and descriptions from the Navy of multiple UFO intrusions into military airspace don't seem to have moved the needle.
Nor has the "Storm Area 51" Facebook meme, which had more than one million people jokingly pledging to "Naruto run" faster than military bullets to free the aliens purportedly held at the classified U.S. Air Force Base in Nevada.
Meanwhile, actual UFO sightings are slightly higher than in previous polling years, from a low of nine percent in 1978 and 1987, to 2019, with 16 percent of U.S. adults saying they've seen a UFO.