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Two in three Americans think there is intelligent life on other planets

Most Americans think we’re not alone in the cosmos — a belief that has grown over the past few years. Most of those who hold this opinion also think we will make contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life within the next hundred years. And, on the topic of UFOs, most think the U.S. government knows more than it is telling the general public.

Sixty-six percent of Americans now believe that there is intelligent life on other planets — an increase of 10 percentage points since the last time CBS News asked this question in 2017. As recently as 2010, fewer than half of Americans believed this was so.

Moreover, a third of those who believe in sentient extraterrestrial life think human contact with beings from another world will occur during their lifetime (including 10% of Americans who volunteer that we already have).  Another 24% think such contact will be made within the next hundred years. Thirty-six percent think it won’t happen until further into the future, while 6% think that while there is intelligent life on other planets, we will never have contact with it.

Though few Americans say they believe aliens have contacted us already, many more at least entertain the possibility. Fifty-one percent of Americans think UFOs — or Unidentified Flying Objects — might sometimes be the result of alien spacecrafts visiting Earth. This rises to 71% among those who believe intelligent life on other planets exists.

And most Americans think that whatever UFOs are, the U.S. government knows more than it’s telling the general public. Just 20% think the government has told everything it knows about UFOs.

This poll was conducted by telephone March 23-28, 2021 among a random sample of 1,009 adults nationwide.  Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Glen Mills, PA.  Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard landline and cell phones.

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone.

 Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers. The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus 3.6 percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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