A recent UMR Research poll has provided a snapshot of what New Zealanders believe about a range of paranormal subjects. More than half accept that some people have psychic powers; on the other hand, only 24 percent think astrology can be used to predict people’s futures and two thirds do not believe aliens have visited the Earth.
Questions also assessed beliefs in God or a universal spirit, whether Jesus was a historical person, and life after death.
There were some interesting results, particularly where the data are broken down more finely by demographics and the intensity with which beliefs are held. Belief in life after death declines with age, so it would seem the growing sense of one’s own mortality isn’t a major factor in such belief. But belief in psychic powers increases with age, so it’s not just a case of increasing years bringing higher levels of scepticism.
While a majority (61 percent) believe in God, only 41 percent are absolutely certain or fairly certain about this, and belief is much less pronounced in men (52 percent) than women (72 percent). Women are also more likely to believe in life after death, psychic powers and astrology, while the sexes are evenly split on UFOs and whether Jesus was a real person.
Astrology takes a real hiding. Forty percent are absolutely certain it can’t predict the future, while only two percent hold the opposite view. Alien visitation also did rather poorly, with only 11 percent absolutely or fairly certain it has happened, as against 44 percent holding the contrary positions.
An Australian 2009 Nielsen poll makes for interesting comparisons. It seems the Aussies are slightly less likely to believe in psychic powers (49 percent), slightly more likely (68 percent) to believe in God or a universal spirit, about as likely to believe in UFOs, and much more likely (41 percent) to believe in astrology, although this last one may be just the way the question was asked (belief in astrology vs its ability to predict the future).
The poll (www.umr.co.nz/Media/WhatDoNewZealandersBelieveDec11.pdf) was conducted online from 21 to 28 September 2011 on a nationally representative sample of 1000 New Zealanders 18 years of age and over. Detailed quotas and weighting were used to ensure that the sample was as representative as possible. The first results were released in December; future reports based on the data will cover such subjects as beliefs about Maori culture and public faith in herbal remedies. It will be interesting to see how they turn out.