Most People Believe Intelligent Aliens Exist, Poll Says

More than half of Americans think intelligent aliens exist, according to a new poll. Jim Young/REUTERS

Are we alone in the universe? Most Americans, Brits and Germans think that we are not. In fact, a new poll shows that slightly more than half of respondents from each country think that intelligent alien life exists.

The poll, conducted by the market-research company YouGov, found the Germans are most likely to believe, at 56 percent, followed by Americans and British, at 54 and 52 percent, respectively.

Those who believe greatly outnumber the people who definitely do not; at most, just under one-third of people in Germany assert that there is no intelligent life outside of Earth, while only around one-quarter of respondents in the other countries said the same. One-fifth of Americans and British said they didn't know one way or the other.

The poll surveyed 1,000 or more people in each country and had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

American men (65 percent) were significantly more likely than women (46 percent) to believe in extraterrestrial intelligent life. Those over 65 were less likely to believe than those who are younger; people ages 30 to 44 are the most likely to believe, at 60 percent. People in the South and West (both at 57 percent) were more likely to assert aliens' existence than those skeptical Northeasterners (47 percent).

The surveyors asked Americans who said smart aliens don't exist to explain why. Nearly two-thirds responded that it's because "humans were created by a God or another higher being," and 31 percent chose the response that "the Earth is unique—it is the only place capable of sustaining intelligent life."

So if there are smart aliens, why haven't they contacted us? Forty-two percent of Americans said it's because "human technology is not advanced enough for us to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligent life." Thirty percent believe that "extra-terrestrial intelligent life has already contacted us but the government has covered it up." And nearly one-quarter responded that aliens have "contacted or visited Earth, but long before the development of human civilization."

People are a little less sure about the wisdom of trying to contact aliens. Only 43 percent of Americans support a program that "aims to send a digital message describing life on earth to other intelligent civilizations in space," while 31 percent say the message shouldn't be sent.

A past poll by the same group, in 2013, found that 50 percent of Americans thought that extraterrestrial life exists, while only 38 percent said that intelligent life exists. However, a 2012 survey by National Geographic found that 77 percent of Americans think that aliens have visited Earth.