Friday, October 23, 2015

A Somewhat Haunted World - Paranormal Beliefs in the 2015 Chapman Survey on American Fears

Blog posts from Chapman University on their 2015 Chapman University Survey on American Fears include one by Sheri Ledbetter titled This Haunted World about the section on paranormal beliefs. It begins by stating [I added the percent in square brackets] that:

“Currently the most common paranormal belief in the United States is the belief that places can be haunted by spirits with over 40 percent [41.4 percent] of Americans agreeing or strongly agreeing with this statement. More than a fourth (26.5 percent) believe that the living and dead can communicate with each other. Nearly a fifth believe that dreams can foretell the future (20.9 percent) and that aliens visited Earth in our ancient past (20.3 percent).”

I had a good laugh when I looked at all the results from the seven questions in that section of the survey (pages 55 to 57 of the Complete Results). Each question had asked participants to:

“Please indicate your level of agreement with the following statements:”

That level was ranked on a scale from one to five where:

1 = Strongly Disagree

2 = Disagree

3 = Don’t Know

4 = Agree

5= Strongly Agree.

A more honest bar chart for those results is shown above. (Click on it to see a larger and clearer view). I have shown the valid percentages for agreeing or strongly agreeing in blue, and also the valid percentages for disagreeing or strongly disagreeing in red. Note that only Places can be haunted by spirits has a just 4.7 higher percentage for blue than red. For the other six questions more Americans mainly saw red - indicating they thought that paranormal belief was rather silly. Both this chart and the list shown on Sheri's blog post ignored the percentage who replied don't know.  

Another way of displaying these results is to calculate an Agreement Score (ranging from 1.0 to 5.0) defined as follows:

Agreement Score = [ 1x(% for Strongly Disagree) 
+  2x(% for Disagree) + 3x(% for Don’t Know) 
+ 4x(% for Agree) + 5x(% for Strongly Agree)]/100.

For this Agreement Score a value of 3.0 is the transition point between disagreement and agreement. This score is similar to the Fear Score I mentioned in a previous post

A second bar chart shows the Agreement Score for all seven questions about the paranormal. That score is always less than 3.0, indicating disagreement.

The blog post also mentions that:

“Paranormal beliefs are quite common in the United States, if we examine how many such beliefs a person holds. Using the seven paranormal items included on the Chapman Survey of American Fears, Wave 2 (2015), we find that a about half of Americans (49.7 percent) do not hold any of these seven beliefs. However, this means that half of Americans do believe in something paranormal.”

A third bar chart lists the percentages of people with zero through seven of these fears.

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