READERS DIGEST EXCULSIVE POLL- (Australian Edition July 2005)

 

OUT THERE

Who think we're alone? Not many of us according to RD's survey asking Australians about intelligent life beyond planet Earth.

This much we already know. Earth is part of the Milky Way- one galaxy among two hundred billion galaxies in the Universe. And each galaxy contains an average of four hundred billion stars. Our closest star, the sun provides the light and heat to support life as we know it. So is it so far-fetched to believe intelligence has developed elsewhere in space, within the glow of at least one star? It's a question that intrigues and confounds.

Without a definitive answer, how many of us choose to believe in aliens? To find out, we polled 750 adults nationwide*, posing a range of questions about aliens, UFOs, encounters and the openness of authorities to tell all they know. This is what we uncovered.

FOUR OUT OF FIVE OF US BELIEVE ALIENS EXIST

"Do you think there are other forms of intelligent life in the universe?" Eighty-one percent said yes. Of these around six in ten believe aliens are already monitoring what we do on Earth. Older people (50-59 years) are more likely than 18-29-year-olds to believe we're being watched.

(The above text is next to a picture of a crop circle, with the following: Calling cards in the crops? More than a third of us think aliens are behind patterns such as this one in the US.)

 

"I think there are [life forms in] universes outside this who probably wonder the same thing."

Female, 45, NSW

"I guess my philosophical view and my spiritual feeling is that it is more likely to be others, not just us."

Male, 39, Queensland.

"I have a very open mind. I've never seen a million dollars, yet I know it exists."

Female, 31, Queensland.


67% RECKON ALIENS HAVE VISITED EARTH.

Of those who believe in aliens, 83 per cent think other life forms have already dropped by. Around one in five maintain they (or someone they know) has seen a UFO, and around twice as many believe out-of-this-world life forces are responsible for crop circles. More than half suspect that humans have been abducted by aliens. And seven per cent told us they, or an acquaintance, may have already had a close encounter with an alien.

Some of our respondents go one step further, believing that extraterrestrials may be living among us. One in ten answered yes to the question: Have you ever thought someone you know may be an alien?

 

"Over the years I have met many people who have seen strange things in the sky they could not explain."

Male, 34, Western Australia.

"I have met many weird people who should be out in space and others who are (off) this planet."

Female, 66, Tasmania.


84% OF BELIEVERS THINK ALIENS WILL BE FRIENDLY

Two-thirds of our overall sample- and a whopping 84 per cent of believers - told us that aliens are more likely to be our friends than foes. In fact, around half the believers feel so enamoured of extraterrestrial life forms that they would like the chance to meet one. And men are more likely than women to desire such an encounter.

 

"There are bad and good aliens, just like the humans on Earth. Just watch out!"

Male, 58, Victoria.

"If we encounter other beings I hope we don't kill first and ask questions later."

Female, 54, Queensland.


WE THINK THEY'LL LOOK JUST LIKE....US...OR MAYBE NOT.

When asked what aliens might look like, around half the believers said "humans." Other responses included "invisible forces" (12 per cent), ET (11 per cent) and Star Trek weirdos (nine per cent). Younger respondents were more likely to have fanciful perceptions like ET and little green men. A significant proportion of our sample- 16 per cent- couldnŐt even hazard a guess about the appearance of an extraterrestrial.

"Shaped by their own planet conditions."

Male, 63, Victoria.

"Large eyes, white skin."

Female, 29, Western Australia.

 

THREE-QUARTERS SAY THERE'S A COVER-UP

Regardless of our belief about aliens, most Australians feel that the authorities are withholding information on this topic. Almost three-quarters of our overall sample answered no to the question: Do you think authorities are telling us all they know about alien encounters? Among believers, this suspicion jumped to a staggering 93 per cent.

Suspicion didn't end there: several of our poll group queried why we were asking!

(Picture of Area 51- not really sure- it looks industrial!-with the text, "Do places such as the Area 51 testing facility in the US harbour secrets governments are keen to suppress?" Seems most of us think so.)

DOWN TO EARTH OPINIONS

Around one-fifth of our sample stated categorically that they do not believe in the existence of aliens. Yet they don't necessarily think the believers are crazy. When we asked the sceptics to describe people who believe in UFOs and aliens, the top response (42 per cent) was "open-minded," followed closely by "gullible" (35 per cent). Only eight per cent of the sceptics described believers as "bonkers."

"I believe in God. He created the Earth and life is only in this planet."

Male, 40, New South Wales.

"I learnt from a very young age to believe only what you see."

Female, 44, Queensland.

"In our lifetime, will we ever know? Maybe not. But hopefully in future years the next generation might know."

Female, 45, Tasmania.

* Market-research company The Leading Edge conducted this online survey on behalf of Readers Digest on April 14 and 15, 2005.