Sasquatch Coffee

What Americans Believe About Cryptozoology

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on October 29th, 2006

While this is not intended to be, nor will it be allowed to turn into, a discussion about religion or politics, I did find the following article interesting. This article from The Christian Post website mentioned the following:

Time additionally measured Americans on weird beliefs including their perception of UFOs and Bigfoot. The report showed that 25 percent agree some UFOs are probably spaceships from other worlds and 18 percent agreed that creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster will one day be discovered. Also, 41 percent agree that ancient advanced civilizations, like Atlantis, once existed, and 37 percent agree that places can be haunted.

Doing some digging, I found that the survey was in fact sponsored by Baylor University. While the survey was mainly about religious beliefs, it also included questions about nonstandard beliefs.

Christopher D. Bader, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Baylor University, was one of the principal investigators of this study. Chris and I have corresponded over the years about the subject of Bigfoot, something he has had a keen interest in since his childhood growing up in Washington state.

I called Chris Saturday morning and we talked about the survey. He shared with me the following about their findings:

The Baylor Religion Survey (BRS) is planned as a bi-annual study of religious attitudes and behaviors in the United States. Every two years we will administer the survey to a random, national sample with the help of the Gallup Organization. While the survey is focused on religion, every wave will included "topical modules," batteries of questions about a particular topic of interest that will not appear in every wave. The first wave of the BRS was collected in the fall of 2005. The topical modules on this first wave included trust of other people, consumption of religious books, movies and other products and the paranormal, very loosely defined. As part of the "paranormal" set of questions, two items were asked of interest to cryptozoologists. 

First, the BRS asked respondents their level of agreement with the statement "Creatures such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster will one day be discovered by science." More than half of respondents (56.3%) either strongly disagreed or disagreed with this statement. About 27% (26.9) were undecided. The remaining 16.9% agreed or strongly agreed. 

Some interesting patterns emerge when breaking down this item by demographic characteristics. For example, males are on average more skeptical about cryptozoology, with 61.3% of male respondents disagreeing/strongly disagreeing with this statement, compared to 49.8% of females. On average, whites were more likely to disagree (57.5%) than African Americans (47.7%) and those of "other races (34.2%). Catholics were more likely to believe in the existence of Bigfoot/Nessie (23.9%) than Protestants (18%). Age had no significant effects, but Kerry (22.4%) and Nader (25.1%) were much more likely to find merit in cryptozoology than Bush voters (14.3%).  Respondents generally become more skeptical about Bigfoot and Nessie with higher levels of education. For example, a third of those without a high school diploma (33.4%) agreed with the above statement, compared to 18% of those with a B.A. degree. 

A second question gauged levels of interest in cryptozoology. Respondents were asked "Have you ever read a book, consulted a Web site, or researched the following topic. Mysterious animals, such as Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster?"

About a fifth (21.3%) of U.S. citizens have researched Bigfoot/Nessie. Despite their skepticism, males are more likely to have done such research (24.1%) than females (18.9%). Those of "other" races (non-White, non-African-American) were the most likely to have done such research (32.2%), compared to Whites (21.6%) and African Americans (11.9%). Religious preference had no impact on researching mysterious animals. Neither age nor education had significant effects. For example, respondents between 18 and 30 were much more likely (35.1%) to have done such research than those over 65 (12.4%). Nader voters were also more likely to research crypto (29.3%) than Kerry (21.1%) or Bush voters (20%).

The survey, along with the initial findings are available on The Association of Religion Data Archives website.
Baylor Religion Survey, 2005.

Chris also shared with me the fact that the current issue of Time Magazine, October 30, 2006 Vol. 168 No. 18, out on newsstands now features this study in the cover story, America by the Numbers. He said that there is a still from the Patterson/Gimlin film used in the article.

Read Chris’ thoughts regarding the comments from the Cryptomundo readers here at: Survey Investigator Speaks Out.

Baylor University. 2005. The Baylor Religion Survey. Waco, TX: Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion [producer].

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster.


21 Responses to “What Americans Believe About Cryptozoology”

  1. cor2879 responds:

    I had no idea I was in such a tiny minority! Another thing that surprises me is that there are more people who believe in the existence of Atlantis than bigfoot. Don’t get me wrong I do believe that there have been advanced human civilizations that through their own folly or through major natural disaster were destroyed, but I would wager that there is far more tangible evidence of a large, hairy, North American ape or hominid than there is for Atlantis.

  2. MrInspector responds:

    Interesting, but having studied statistics, I can assure you that polls and surveys are very non-scientific. The numbers don’t really work when placed in the context of a survey. There are too many ways to ask questions and recieve the answer you were looking for. Organizations who arrange and conduct polls, are well known, and well used, because they can come up with whatever figures you would like them to.

    For more info try, How to Lie With Statistics by Darrell Huff (Paperback – Jan 1954) or How to Lie With Charts by Gerald Everett Jones (Paperback – Jul 2000)” or for those of you with no time to read books, you might watch Penn and Teller’s B.S. episode on polling. I think Huff’s work may have been the backbone of this episode. We did some rather interesting work with polls in college. With a little practice you can show how more than 50 percent of the country would like to ride a bicycle made of ice cream.

    The two questions you have to ask, when considering a poll, who proposed the poll, and why are they doing the poll in the first place? Motivation will often shed light on the results.

    As Mr. Coleman stated, this isn’t a religious or political forum, so I won’t go into details about this particular survey, but I am aware of it, and it does have a nefarious purpose.

  3. Loren Coleman responds:

    The purpose and background of any statistic study or survey has to be taken into account to understand the motives and research bias that comes into play doing research.

    End result statistics may only be completely understood if there is a complete revealing of the questions employed and the context of how those were asked.

  4. Ole Bub responds:

    Good morning Cryptos…I wonder what the percentages may have been had they asked the Bigfoot existence question, without the link to Nessie…there is much more compelling evidence for the “big furry folks” than any surviving psuedosaur in Scotland…JMHO

    seeing is believing….

    ole bub and the dawgs

  5. ddh1969 responds:

    Surveys

    Not only is it in WHO you ask but also in HOW you ask.

    I was surprised how LOW the 37% was in people who believed places could be haunted. I’ve seen other surveys where ‘similar’ responses have been between 50 – 75 % in favor of this possibility.

    OF course, in terms of what ‘I’ believe. I don’t want to ‘believe’ anything. I want to KNOW. If something is there it’s there whether I ‘believe’ in it or not. You can believe anything ya want, but facts are facts.

  6. joppa responds:

    If you have ever run into a hairy bi-ped, YOU have discovered it, the heck with the rest of the world. The question is “WHAT have you discovered ?”
    That is what many folks are trying to discover and understand their experience. The world is a more exciting place if bigfoots and nessies lurk in the dark and deep recesses of our world, and allow us to hope that not all the answers have been found and not all of the world and its creatures have been discovered.

  7. Bob Michaels responds:

    Baylor is in Waco Texas, haven’t those good people heard of the Big Thicket Bigfoot? The question in the poll should have been, do you believe that large unknown animals still exist? I bet the numbers would then be reversed.

  8. chrisandclauida2 responds:

    Loren please correct me if im wrong.

    what Loren was very elegantly trying to say is the the data cant be properly interpreted without knowing who was asking the questions and who was answering the questions and how their beliefs and agendas may affect the data. that particular group may or may not be a good representation of the population at large.

    Baylor university is a southern baptist school. i dont know where their sample was but if it was local or in the bible belt the answers may not be a good indicator of the country at large.

    im not saying that they are loony in the belt but their answers to the questions we are talking about are very impacted by the beliefs of the people.

    i would go as far as saying that if the respondents knew who was asking they might even skew their answers.

    like Craig said the discussion shouldn’t go off onto religion. but their should be some facts added that may help interpret the answers.

    i come from a long line of southern baptists and was going to be a southern baptist pastor. i add this to give some weight to what i am going to say.

    southern baptists can be very strict and very narrow in interpretation of their beliefs and doctrine.

    of course the belief in creation is an unimpeachable belief. some wont even talk about any kind of evolution of different species. the point being that such a creature as a bigfoot is an impossibility.

    same can be said for ufo’s and different civilizations in the earths past or other worlds. it isnt in the bible so it cant have been true regardless of the evidence

    the point is that these two subjects would be simply dismissed and all discussion of them not allowed and almost seen as sacrilege.

    i never had such narrow views of things like cryptozoology or such a closed mind. i am open to the thought that some things can exist outside the realm of the good book. i didn’t grow up in the south but my family did and never did you see better baptists. lol. these subjects are dismissed as nonsense.

    as Loren said knowing the group asking and the group answering these questions are of a huge importance to discerning the weight to give to the data.

    these same questions asked of different groups will return different numbers.

  9. chrisandclauida2 responds:

    well i missed parts about the survey being national and the Gallup org administering the survey. so just ignore what i said.

    nothing to see here move along

  10. things-in-the-woods responds:

    I agree with many of the posters here- the survey would be much more interesting and useful if we knew more about the background of the interviewees (and interviewers) and their wider webs of belief- it is strange that, for instance, belief in atlantis is greater than in cryptid creatures such as sasquatch.

    I think the subject of the psychology of the belief in ‘mysteries’, particularly in Cryptozoology, could be a very interesting thing to study. We should remember that beliefs are of very different kinds- there are beliefs based on the best available evidence, beliefs based on what we want to be true, beliefs that are just embedded in our forms of life and which we do not even recognise as beliefs, and so on. The kinds of belief people have, the basis of their beliefs, is almost as interesting as exactly what it is they believe.

    Anyway, this reminded me- there is a poll that is infamous over here in the UK (although its taken on something of the status of an urban myth) that apparently showed that over a third (or a half, or three quarters- depends on who you hear it from now) of americans believed they have been abducted by aliens at some point in their lives…

    Who knows what that shows or how good the survey methodology was, but it is something we always roll it out when we are feeling superior and want to show how crazy you yanks are… ;)

  11. jjames1 responds:

    things-in-the-woods, you make an interesting comment that shows some of the same “biases” that commenters in this thread accuse others of having. :) You said:

    “it is strange that, for instance, belief in atlantis is greater than in cryptid creatures such as sasquatch.”

    Well, yes, it’s strange to you, perhaps–because you likely DO believe in Sasquatch, given your screen-name and your presence on this website. However, go over to a website for Atlantean afficionados, and you might see people there saying they can’t believe that so few people believe in Atlantis.

  12. Mnynames responds:

    The ghost question is interesting, because I too recall seeing a survey rating this belief in the high regions, say 75%. I also recall a survey which showed that residents of the southern states were far more likely to believe in ghosts than people of any other region of the US. Then there’s all the surveys universally touted by ufologists that show that belief in UFO’s increases in direct relationship to level of education. I would expect that to be the case for CZ as well, especially since CZ is arguably much more solidly based in the conventional sciences.

    Interesting food for thought, regardless…

  13. DWA responds:

    I thought it was interesting that “belief in” (sorry, I HATE using that phrase, but went two minutes trying to concoct a proper sub…and look how long I’m going trying to explain myself here…..

    ….DEEP breath….) lol

    Aaaaanyway, “belief in” Bigfoot goes DOWN with rising education level. (On yes, this one lone survey.) I’d think that ability to evaluate evidence would go UP with education level.

    And then I had a thought about the “evidence” our Ph.D’s are evaluating. It’s right at hand, in the checkout line at the grocery store.

    sigh….if the tabloids had never gotten hold of the Big Guy, we’d be reading peer-review articles speculating on the size of proposed Bigfoot reserves, based on the data provided by radio-collared Bigf….

    ….RADIO-COLLARED Bigf….

    Um….GO NATIONAL STAR!!!!

    One hopes science won’t treat the Big Guy like it treats most everything else, eh?

  14. Sky King responds:

    I believe accurate poll results are about as likely as Bigfoot, which is to say very, very likely.

    I also believe you can get 17% of the populace to agree that the Moon’s made of green cheese.

    Any poll is as good as the folks conducting it: good poll, good results.

  15. Alton Higgins responds:

    Interesting to compare the Baylor survey’s “least likelys” with the makeup of the Texas Bigfoot Research Center.

    The “politically conservative college-educated white male Protestant” demographic pretty much describes the typical TBRC member.

  16. youcantryreachingme responds:

    ddh1969 wrote: “OF course, in terms of what ‘I’ believe. I don’t want to ‘believe’ anything. I want to KNOW. If something is there it’s there whether I ‘believe’ in it or not. You can believe anything ya want, but facts are facts.

    There you go. That’s what you believe.

    But we’re getting a little esoteric.

  17. youcantryreachingme responds:

    things-in-the-woods wrote: “I think the subject of the psychology of the belief in ‘mysteries’, particularly in Cryptozoology, could be a very interesting thing to study.

    Me too. For example, in reading the post I get the impression the results are saying men are more skeptical, educated people are more skeptical and the skeptics are actually the ones who have gone out there and researched the questions.

    But there is an implicit assumption that persons with a higher educational qualification are more intelligent than those with a lower, or without a qualification.

    There may equally be a significant number of uneducated, but highly intelligent people who have also researched the questions, and do believe the evidence points to (for example) the existence of a specific cryptid.

    Unfortunately, the resolution of the results presented in this post will never give us that information.

    What I’m saying is that while only 37% of people believe a place can be haunted, perhaps 30% (well over half those who believe) have actually researched the topic, are intelligent (although perhaps not educated), and came to the conclusion that hauntings occur. So what if the other 63% don’t believe it, if they also have never looked into the question?

    You just can’t read too much into such statistics. They’re a great starting place for asking further questions of the population though; but I am supposing that is unlikely to happen.

    If the respondants’ contact details were kept, perhaps they could be followed up for an open discussion focus group, but again – I’m sure the two crypto-related questions weren’t the primary objective here; I’m talking very theoretically.

  18. VoiceOfReason responds:

    When looking at survey results you must also take into account what is called the Elvis Effect, 10% of Americans believe Elvis is still alive. Subtract that 10% and you have only 7%. Then throw in the fact that surveyers can ask questions so that you feel left out if you answer “wrong,” and, if that is indeed the case, you have a very small minority of true believers.

  19. things-in-the-woods responds:

    jjames1 – I wasn’t trying to exclude myself from those having biases. In my heart I want Bigfoot to be real but in my head I also think it is incredibly unlikely (yeah, I know, those of you who have seen him are gonna shout at me- but just remember that isn’t really good evidence for me). All I was trying to say is that people who believe in atlantis are clearly more crazy than me.. ;)

  20. joe levit responds:

    Regarding the article in Time, I was actually most bothered by the tagline Time used to introduce the section of the pie charts used to show these beliefs. The line was “How weird is that?” followed by “percentage who agree that:” and on to the various topics. I feel the sarcastic tone of the tagline is in poor taste, and automatically insinuates that the percentage who believe in the individual phenomenons are weird to begin with. Talk about automatic conviction. I’ve been thinking of writing in a letter to complain. If I do, and it’s published, I’ll pass is along to Cryptomundo.

  21. wenonahplace responds:

    The problem here is not the public’s belief or disbelief in any of our world’s hidden species. The problem is that science as a whole has failed us. These “cryptid” creatures existed long before we ever took to the woods or the seas of our world.

    Science gave up on the search for what many peoples around the globe already know to be living creatures. Then science tries to sell the world on there non existence.

    The sad part is that its working, for the most part. Society in general, text book educated only knows what it should know, what they want us to know.

    Persecution will always behold those who think outside the realm of common thinking, who really likes ridicule? I’ll bet that even our hairy fore fathers of the stone age were subject to ridicule when they first thought of walking upright, or thought of the wheel, or decided to actually cook the meat first.

    Nothing changes!



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