Many Americans Still Believe in Demonic Possession

Demonic possession

This time of year, virtually everything one hears about polls inevitable concerns politics. Fortunately, this is not the only kind of polls being conducted. Public Policy Polling had an interesting one the day before Halloween in which they asked registered U.S. voters a number of questions about their plans for Halloween and their beliefs regarding various Halloween-related phenomena.

Some of the highlights from the poll included:

  • 37% believe in ghosts, and 26% claim they have seen one
  • 52% believe houses can be haunted
  • 57% think people can be possessed by demons

The finding about demonic possession was the one I found most interesting. And by interesting, I mean absolutely terrifying that people can still believe this garbage these days. I say this not merely because we live in an age of science but because the belief in possession has caused so much suffering for so many people.

When the finding was split by respondents' political identity (of which there were apparently only two choices provided), 68% of Republicans and 49% of Democrats indicated that they believe in demonic possession. That difference was not nearly as large as I would have predicted, but it is a potent reminder that irrationality and superstition remain widespread and are not limited to those with certain political leanings.

What is the take-home message from surveys like this? Perhaps the briefest way to sum it up would be to note that it reflects a sad failure to apply skepticism. Along with continuing to facilitate the erosion of faith, I cannot help thinking that we desperately need to improve our system of public education. Critical thinking, skepticism, and the scientific method are areas of necessary improvement. These are not skills with which people are born, but they can be taught and practiced. This is more than an academic exercise; these beliefs are impacting people in unfortunate ways.