2. Prior Research
3. The Colorado Study of Public Attitudes
|BACK to Contents|
Reported in this chapter are the findings of four opinion surveys conducted during the spring of 1968. The major surveys were of 2050 adults and 451 teen-agers, representing a cross-section of the U. S. population. The other two surveys concerned college students and UFO sighters. These latter two however, are not representative samples of college students and UFO sighters. In this report, opinions regarding the proportion of sighters in the United States, opinions regarding the reporting of UFOs, and attitudes toward UFOs and related phenomena are considered.
It has been suggested that UFO phenomena should be studied by both physical and social scientists. Although some events are easily categorized as physical and others as social, some do not belong exclusively in one or the other domain of investigation. A focus of the study of tornadoes or other natural disasters, for example, may be upon the physical origin, evolution and demise of the phenomenon, a problem for the physical scientist; another focus may be upon the behavior and attitudes of individuals regarding the phenomenon, a problem for the social or behavioral scientist. In such cases not only does the phenomenon have potential implications regarding the physical world, but it also has implications for the behavior of individuals as a function of that kind of situation.
Still, another condition may obtain. If a reported phenomenon is as yet ill-defined, it is particularly appropriate to investigate both its physical and social aspects in order to maximize the amount of information to be gained and to delimit the parameters of that phenomenon.
Two other considerations also support the study of opinions and attitudes regarding UFO phenomena. First, the great majority of UFO reports consist entirely of verbal reports; material or physical evidence is infrequently available. Even when evidence of some kind is provided,
there is still necessarily a heavy reliance on the description provided by the observer. Second, most UFO reports are dependent on the perceptual and cognitive processes (Considerations regarding the nature of perception and misinterpretation are examined in Section VI Chapters 1, 2, & 3). But perception influences and is influenced by the attitudes and beliefs of the perceiver. Equally important is the fact that the attitudes and beliefs of any individual exist in a social context and are either congruent or incongruent with the attitudes and beliefs of others. In the case of attitudes regarding UFOs and related topics, it is not known whether the beliefs of for example, sighters and non-sighters differ, much less what degrees of opinion characterize the public at large.
Finally, a study of opinions and attitudes toward UFO phenomena gains support from the fact that public opinion, concerning an apparently ill-defined phenomenon, was one reason for the establishment of the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects of the University of Colorado.
In the past three public opinion polls regarding "flying saucers" have been conducted by the American Institute of Public Opinion, more familiarly known as the Gallup Poll. The report of the first poll appeared in August of 1947, shortly after Kenneth Arnold's widely publicized report of flying saucers. The Gallup new release indicate that 90% of the American public had heard of flying saucers (Gallup, 1947). About three years later, a second poll was conducted; at that time 94% of those polled had heard or read about flying saucers (Gallup, 1950). Sixteen years had passed when in 1966, the report of the third poll announced that "more than five million Americans claim to have seen something they believed to be a 'flying saucer'" (Gallup, 1966).
Because of the substantial public interest in UFO phenomena and the absence of information in the area of attitudes and opinions on the subject, opinion surveys were undertaken for the Colorado project in February 1968. The primary surveys were of adults and teen-agers, representing a cross-section of the population of the United States and were conducted for the project by the ORC Caravan Surveys Division of
Opinion Research Corporation, Princeton, N.J. Two ancillary surveys, one of UFO sighters and another of college students, were also conducted. Before these surveys are described previous research in the area of attitudes and opinions toward UFOs and related phenomena will be considered.
In the 1966 Gallup Poll, 1,575 persons were interviewed according to a stratified area sampling procedure. The interview included the following four questions:
No further explanations or elaborations of the questions were provided, so that replies necessarily were contingent on the respondent's interpretation of such words and expressions as "real" and "people somewhat like ourselves." For example, that 48% of the respondents felt that flying saucers are real does not imply that the respondents necessarily view them as space-vehicles; "real" in this context suggests a multitude of alternatives (such as weather balloons, or secret weaponry, or airplanes), all of which would afford explanations other than "people's imagination."
The major findings of this po11 appear in Table 1 . As also indicated by the 1947 and 1950 polls, all but a very small proportion of the respondents had heard or read about flying saucers. From the replies to the second question in Table 1 , the Gallup organization estimated that over 5,000,000 persons had seen a flying saucer. Responses to the third and fourth questions reveal that opinion is clearly divided among those who voice an opinion, and that over 20% say that they have no opinion.
In general, the results of opinion polls may be used in two ways: first simply to represent or typify public opinion; and second, to delineate characteristics which are related to differences in opinion. Taking the
|1.||Have you heard or read about "flying saucers?"||96%||4||--||100%||(1575)|
|2.||Have you ever seen any-thing you thought was a "flying saucer?"||5%||94||1||100%*||(1518)|
|3.||In your opinion, are they something real, or just people's imagination?||48%**||31***||22||l00%*||(1518)|
|4.||Do you think there are people somewhat like ourselves living on other planets in the universe?||34%||45||21||100%||(1575)|
* Percents are based on the number of respondents who indicated that they had heard or read about flying saucers.
latter approach, the raw data from the 1966 po11 were obtained from the Gallup Organization in order to examine the relationships between demographic characteristics of the respondents and their replies to the Gallup Poll questions. The finding presented here (including those of Table 1) are based on the Colorado project's statistical analyses of these data.
To determine whether those holding different opinions differ or whether sighters and nonsighters differ with respect to other characteristics, the replies to the four poll questions were examined with regard to the region of the country in which the respondents lived, age, sex, education, and where appropriate, whether the respondents were sighters.
The four regions of the country, East, Midwest, South, and West, did not differ from each other in the proportion of respondents who had heard of flying saucers. The differences among the proportions having seen a flying saucer, by region, also were not statistically significant. (To say that a difference is statistically significant is to indicate that the difference is not likely to be due to chance alone. For example, a difference which is significant at the .05 level is said to be so large that that or one greater would occur only 5 times out of 100 if only chance were operating). The proportion of respondents within each region indicating that flying saucers are "real" varied somewhat, with the largest percentage to say "real," 52% from the West, and the smallest, 45% from the South, with 48% and 47% for Easterners and Midwesterners, respectively. However these differences are not large enough to be statistically significant. When it came to consideration of "people on other planets," the percentage of Southerners, 27% to say "yes," was smaller than those from the other areas of the country. The percent of those from the East, Midwest, and West were 36%, 37%, and 35% respectively. The difference between southerners and others is statistically significant at the .05 level. No sufficient explanation can be offered for this regional difference on the basis of the present analyses.
In addition, the data were analysed according to age. Respondents were categorized as being in their 20's, 30's, 40's, 5O's, 60's, or 70 and above. The percentage having heard of flying saucers is constant
across age groups, as is the percentage who identify themselves as sighters. On the other hand, the age of the respondents does appear to be related to the replies to the other questions, as to whether flying saucers are real and whether there are people on other planets. The results of the analysis appear in Table 2. They show that the younger the respondents, the greater the proportion willing to indicate that they feel that flying saucers are "real." About twice as many persons in the youngest group answer "real" as answer "imagination," while in the oldest group the proportion answering "imagination" outweighs those replying "real." It can also be seen that the percent reporting "no opinion" varies, with a larger proportion of the older people than of the younger reporting "no opinion."
The analysis by age of the question concerning "people on other planets" appears in Table 3. Again, response is related to age, with more of the younger respondents indicating an opinion. Of those who voice an opinion, the youngest persons are fairly evenly divided between "yes" and "no," while "no's" outweigh "yeses" two to one among the eldest. The above analyses of these two opinion questions strongly suggest that age is, in some way, an important factor in beliefs regarding UFOs and related topics. The implications of these findings are considered later in conjunction with the analyses of the opinion surveys of the Colorado study.
When the questions are analysed according to sex, it is found that men and women do not differ in their replies, except to the question which asks whether flying saucers are real or imaginary. 43% of the men and 52% of the women indicate they think flying saucers are real; 35% and 26%, respectively, hold them to be imaginary and 22% of each group have no opinion.
Although the relationships are not strong, the results of the 1966 Gallup poll suggest that education is related to opinions. The greater the education, the higher the proportion who indicated they have heard of flying saucers, who think they are real rather than the product of imagination and who believe that there are people somewhat like ourselves living on other planets.
|70 and above||32%||42||26||100%|
|70 and above||23%||47||30||100%|
A comparison of sighters and nonsighters shows that sighters are more inclined to say that flying saucers are real, 76% of the sighters as compared with 46% of the nonsighters, and that there are people on other planets, 51% as compared with 34%.
In summary, the analysis of the 1966 Gallup data indicate the following:
The findings of Scott (1966) provide a different kind of information about the investigation of attitudes regarding UFOs. His study was concerned with the problem of an individual's public association with UFO phenomena. Because it is commonly said that people will not report a flying saucer because they are reluctant to be associated with such a controversial topic, he undertook a small study to determine whether individuals would be less inclined to indicate acquaintance with the phenomena under public than under private conditions.
As the instructor of a class of 210 students in introductory psychology, he explained that he was collecting some data for a colleague and asked the students to indicate, by raising their hands, if they had seen each of the objects he was about to name. Each of the 11 objects that were named referred to one of three sets: neutral items, taboo (socially unacceptable or negatively sanctioned) items, and unidentified flying objects. Seven of the items were neutral, two taboo, and two UFO. The two items in the UFO set were "UFO" and "flying saucer." The number of responses to each item was recorded. A short time later, an assistant arrived with questionnaire forms listing all 11 items. The instructor indicated that he had already completed the survey; the assistant said that there must have been some misunderstanding because the students were to have indicated their answers on the forms he had brought. Subsequently the students filled in the forms. Later the written responses were tallied and compared with the results of the previous inquiry. The study thus involved the comparison of public response when the response of the individual was visible to others, versus a private response, when the responses could not be observed and would remain anonymous.
A comparison of the number of students indicating that they had seen a given object under the public condition and the number under the private condition revealed a general increase for all items. The mean percent increase for the seven neutral items, which may serve as a baseline for comparison, was 24%. The mean increase for the two taboo items was 85% and for the two UFO items 61%. Comparisons among the three classes of items suggest that the public-private discrepancy for "UFO" and "flying saucer" is more like that for taboo words than that for neutral objects. That is, the subjects appeared to be nearly as reluctant to be associated publicly with these words as with the taboo words.
Turning now to the 1968 Colorado Study, the objectives of the research to be reported in the remainder of this chapter are:
SIGHTERS AND NONSIGHTERS
VIEWS ON REPORTING
ATTITUDES AND OPINIONS
CORRELATES OF ATTITUDES
In the 1968 Colorado study, four surveys were carried out: a survey of adults, a survey of teen-agers, a survey of sighters, and a survey of college students.
A. Adult sample, national opinion survey.
The data in this survey were obtained by means of a personal interview research survey, conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, of 2,050 adults 18 years of age and over residing in private households in the continental United States. Interviewing took place between 21 February and 13 March 1968. Sample selection was made by an equal-probability sample technique. A detailed description of the sampling procedure provided by Opinion Research Corporation appears in Appendix. Comparisons of population and survey sample characteristic appear in Tables 4 and 5, provided by the Opinion Research Corporation. The size of the sample and the method of sampling make it possible to make inferences regarding the American public at large and to make comparisons among subgroups.
B. Teen-age sample, national opinion survey.
This survey of 451 teen-agers was conducted in conjunction with the adult survey; each teen-ager who participated was a member of a household in which an adult was also interviewed. Comparisons of population and sample characteristics for teen-agers appear in Table 5, also provided by Opinion Research Corporation.
C. Sighter survey.
Data were obtained from 94 sighters of UFOs whose names were drawn from the project sighting files. In addition to reports made directly to the project, there were report files, duplicating in part cases on file with the Air Force's Project Blue Book and with NICAP.
The data in the table below compare the characteristics of the weighted1 Caravan sample with those of the total population, 18 years of age or over. The table shows that the distribution of the total sample parallels very closely that of the population under study.
|Population2||Caravan Sample||Population2||Caravan Sample||Population2||Caravan Sample|
|60 or over||21||20||20||20||22||20|
|Rural, under 2,500 population||29%||31%||30%||35%||27%||27%|
|2,500 - 99,999||19||21|
|1,000,000 or over||29||25|
1Weights were introduced into the tabulations to compensate for differences in size of household and variations in completion rates between rural and urban areas.
2Source: Latest data from U. S. Bureau of the Census, regular and interim reports.
The data in the table below compare the characteristics of the Caravan sample households with those of all households in the United States.
|1,000,000 or over||30||26|
|Children under 18||49||52|
|With teen-agers 12-17||21%||23%|
1Source: Latest data from U. S. Bureau of the Census, regular and interim reports.
The names drawn came from four major sources: case reports from Blue Book, case reports from NICAP, personal reports (i.e., cases from individuals who directly contacted the project), and reports from the file of all cases which have been investigated or extensively reviewed by the project staff.
An attempt to obtain approximately 50 completed questionnaires each from the Blue Book, NICAP, and "Personal" files was undertaken by a systematic sampling procedure. In the case of the Colorado investigation file, the names and addresses of sighters were taken from all files extant at the time the sample was drawn. When more than one sighter per report was listed, the case was reviewed to determine who was the principal sighter, and only that person's name was drawn.
A large number of cases did not include satisfactory mailing addresses for sighters. Consequently, it was necessary to select the next occurring file that did include a complete address in either the United States or Canada. Following this procedure, a total of 139 cases were drawn from the Blue Book file to obtain 106 names and addresses, 140 cases from the NICAP file to obtain 95 names and addresses, and 55 cases from the Personal file to obtain 54 names and addresses.
In the spring of 1968, each person whose name was thus drawn was sent a letter explaining the purpose of the intended opinion survey and requesting his participation. Anonymity of the individual was assured. Enclosed with the letter was a reply postcard on which the sighter could indicate whether or not he would be able to participate. Some letters were returned by the post office for insufficient address; no reply was received to some letters. Of those from whom we received affirmative replies (and therefore to whom we sent questionnaires), most participated in the survey. A comparison of the percents participating, not participating, failing to reply to the request letter, and failing to receive the letter, for lack of sufficient address, for the four file sources appear in Table 6.
As would be expected, the rate of response is best for the "Personal" file. Most individuals represented in this file are those who volunteered information. In addition, a larger proportion of these cases occurred
| ||Blue Book||NICAP||Personal
since the beginning of the project. Among the four files, the greatest proportion of letters returned for insufficient address were sent to sighters whose names were drawn from the Blue Book file. The proportion of "no reply" persons is difficult to interpret, because it is impossible to know how many letters were never received and how many were received but went unanswered. Both Blue Book and NICAP files have the greatest proportion of older sightings, which in part accounts for their relatively poorer rate of return. The final sighter sample, on which the analyses are based, consists of 21 sighters form the Blue Book file, 28 from the NICAP file, 31 from the Personal file, and 14 from the Colorado investigations file.
D. College survey
College survey data were obtained between 4 April and 13 May 1968 from 12 college samples, representing 10 colleges and universities. The total number of students participating in the survey is 719. The names of the institutions participating and those individuals who assisted us in obtaining subjects appear in Appendix M. All but three sources of respondents were courses in the behavioral sciences; one participating class was in a physical science department and two were special courses in flying saucers, one offered at the University of California at Davis and the other at Wesleyan University. A description of the samples appears in Table 7. In this table, sample numbers correspond to the order in which completed questionnaires were received; however, the order of schools in Appendix M , referred to above, is alphabetical. Most questionnaires were filled out during a class period by students present on the day the questionnaire was administered. In a few cases, volunteers, rather than every student present, provided the data. In most instances students were not aware, until after they had completed filling out the questionnaire, that the research was being sponsored by the Colorado project.
Although group, rather than individual responses were of interest, students were asked to place their names on the questionnaires, in order to discourage careless or irresponsible answers. (A few students chose not to provide their names; one class was required by its instructor to
Aware of CU Sponsorship
|Psychology of Personality||
|Intro. Psychology; Psychology of Adult Life||
|Intro. Sociology, Anthropology||
fill in the questionnaires anonymously). The results of Scott's study (1968) indicate that responses regarding UFO material under public conditions may be more cautious than under private conditions. Consequently, it was felt that if there were any sample bias in assessing students' views on UFOs and related topics, it would be in the direction of obtaining cautious answers. Moreover, national opinion survey respondents were assessed by personal interview (though anonymity was assured), and the participants of the sighter survey were aware that their names were known to the investigator (though, again, anonymity was assured). Requesting names from students, then, also make the conditions under which this information was obtained more comparable to the other surveys.
Because the results of the national survey of adults serve to reflect the opinions and attitudes of the American adult public, they are given the greatest emphasis in the following analyses. Because of time limitations, only a portion of the data collected on each of the four groups could be analysed.
The instruments of this study are both attitude scales and questionnaires. Because some instruments are common to all four surveys (adult, teen, college, and sighter) while others are not, the instruments are listed according to survey, so that the set of instruments used in each is apparent. A brief description of each instrument is provided the first time it is mentioned, except in those few instances in which the data from them are not included in the present analyses. In such cases, the description of the instrument will be found in Appendix N , where it precedes the instrument.
A. Adult sample, national opinion survey
The items are considered singly, as expression of opinion on separate topics, and as sets comprising the following scales:
- Outer Space scale -- measures the degree to which respondents accept the hypothesis that UFOs are from outer space;
- Evidence scale -- measures the degree to which respondents believe that there is evidence for the existence of UFOs (This scale, however, does not include items which suggest the origin of UFOs. The respondent may, if he wishes, reject the extra-terrestrial or outer space hypothesis, but still indicate that he believes there is evidence to support the hypothesis that UFOs do exist;
- Adequacy scale -- measures the degree to which efforts of the government and its agencies in investigating UFO reports are perceived to be adequate;
- Secrecy scale -- measures the degree to which government secrecy regarding information about UFOs is believed to exist.
A respondent's scale score was determined first by scoring the answer to each statement in the scale either zero or one, according to whether the response was in the direction of acceptance (1) or rejection (0) of the variable measured by the scale itself, then obtaining the mean score for those items of the scale which were answered.
Scale composition was determined jointly by manifest content and inter-item correlations, based on a sample of 205 of the surveyed adults, chosen by a systematic sampling procedure. The composition of each of the scales may be found in Table 8. Homogeneity rates (Scott, 1960) and coefficient alphas (Cronbach, 19S1) for the scales appear in Table 8a Scale intercorrelations (Pearson Product Moment Coefficients (McNemar, 1962)) may be found in Table 9.
|1.||Some flying saucers have tried to communicate with us.|
| ||11.||Earth has been visited at least once in its history by beings from another world.|
| ||13.||Intelligent forms of life cannot exist elsewhere in the universe|
| ||15.||Some UFOs have landed and left marks in the ground.|
| ||23.||People have seen space ships that did not come from this planet.|
|2. Evidence||6.||No airline pilots have seen UFOs.|
| ||8.||No authentic photographs have ever been taken of UFOs.|
| ||24.||Some UFO reports have come from astronomers.|
|3. Competence||3.||The Air Force is doing an adequate job of investigation of UFO reports and UFOs generally.|
| ||12.||The government should spend more money than it does now to study what UFOs are and where they come from.|
| ||18.||The government has done a good job of examining UFO reports.|
|4. Secrecy||19.||There have never been any UFO sightings in Soviet Russia.|
| ||22.||There is no government secrecy about UFOs.|
| ||28.||Government secrecy about UFOs is an idea made up by the newspapers.|
|SCALE||Homogeneity Ratio||Coefficient Alpha|
|1. Outer Space||-|
B. Teen sample, national opinion survey
C. Sighter survey
D. College survey
The analyses of the data which are to be reported are of three kinds. The first section concerns the proportion of the population who identify themselves as sighters and the demographic characteristics of sighters and nonsighters, In the second section, the reporting of UFOs and attitudes toward reporting are examined. In the final section attitudes toward UFOs and related topics are discussed; data from each of the four groups surveyed are presented.
SIGHTERS AND NONSIGHTERS
All adults in the national survey were asked the question, "Have you, yourself, ever seen a UFO?" Three percent of the sample indicated that they had. In order to provide an analysis parallel 10 our analysis of the Gallup study's question, "Have you ever seen anything you thought
was a 'flying saucer'?" the replies to the above question were examined with respect to four demographic variables: region, sex, age, and education. It was found that the proportion of sighters in the various regions of the country, East, Midwest, South, and West, are similar. Equal percentages of men and women say that they have seen an UFO. There are also no differences among age or educational levels. Differences with respect to these demographic variables, except for region of the country, were also absent in the project's analysis of the 1966 Gallup data.
A point at which the results of the above analyses do not agree with those of the Gallup survey concerns the proportion of the public who say that they have seen an UFO. Three percent of our sample said they had seen an UFO while 5% of those polled in the Gallup survey indicated that they had seen as the question was worded, a "flying saucer." The difference between the results of the two surveys approaches statistical significance. The apparent discrepancy between the findings of the Gallup and the Colorado project surveys may be due to one or more variables, such as the difference in the wording of the two questions, or difference in sampling techniques.
The findings of the study undertaken by the Colorado project suggest that the actual number of sighters in the United States is approximately 3.75 million. This estimate is based on the continental U. S. civilian population, 18 years of age and over Current Population Reports, 14 February 1968), the parameters of which were used in determining the survey sample characteristics.
The actual number of sighters may, however range from as few as 1,000,000 to as many as 5,000,000. (A range, as compared with a specific number, takes into account possible sampling variation).
VIEWS ON REPORTING
Attitudes toward the reporting of UFOs were covered in one of the Colorado project questionnaires by nine questions, five addressed to sighters and four to nonsighters. The previously conducted opinion surveys, by Gallup (1947,19S0, 1966) attempted to estimate the percentage of The American population who had heard of flying saucers and, in the 1966 survey, the number of sighters in the American population. However,
the Gallup organization did not attempt to determine what proportion of these self-designated sighters actually reported their sightings.
A study which provides a basis for comparison is one concerned with the reporting of crimes. It was made for the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration by the National Opinion Research Center under the direction of Philip Ennis (1967a, 1967b). This study revealed that 51% of those interviewed who had been the victims of crimes did not report them to the police (1967b). After reviewing the reasons people gave for not notifying the police, Ennis made the following observations (Ennis, 1967b):
First there is strong resistance to invoking the law enforcement process even in matters that are clearly criminal. Second, there is considerable skepticism as to the effectiveness of police action.
Inasmuch as people show reluctance to report crimes, it should not be surprising to find that something thought to be an UFO frequently goes unreported by the sighter. In fact, it is commonly said that sighters are reluctant to report such events because of ridicule. (There are, in fact, some cases in which publicity and ridicule appear to have influenced the sighter to change jobs or move to another town).
The questions designed to assess the reporting process in the present study were asked of sighters to ascertain whether or not they had reported their sightings and the reasons for their decisions, and of nonsighters, under a hypothetical circumstance of having seen an unusual object suspected to be an UFO, to determine whether they thought they would report a sighting and their reasons for their decision. In addition, sighters who had reported their sightings were asked to express their degree of satisfaction with the way in which the report was handled.
The first of the questions concerns the agency to which sighters had reported an UFO; the second, the agency to which nonsighters would report an UFO. The responses of national survey nonsighters appear in Table 10. Data for sighters identified in the national survey are not presented in the table because they are based on so few individuals that the results have no statistical validity. Data for sighters drawn from
|Town or City Official||10%|
|Local UFO Organization||8|
|No one (other than family and friends)||16|
|* In this and subsequent tables, percents are based on the total number answering the question.|
project case files are also not presented, because the percentages obtained primarily reflect the sources from which the sighters' names were drawn.
The primary finding from the sighters' question is that 87% of sighters indicated that they reported the sighting to no one other than family or friends. It would seem, then, that most sighting have little chance of coming to the attention of an agency, whether official, semi-official, or private. The failure to report UFO sightings appears to be more prevalent, 87%, than the failure to report crime, 51%, as indicated in the Ennis reports (l967a, 1967b).
By contrast, only 16% of the nonsighters indicated that they would notify no one save family or friends. In addition, over half of the nonsighters, 56%, indicated they would notify the police. There is clearly, a considerable discrepancy between results for sighters and for nonsighters.
At least two possible explanations may account for the discrepancy between what people say they would do (responses of nonsighters) and what they in fact do, (responses of sighters) given the actual circumstance of a sighting:
Although both sighters and nonsighters were asked for their reasons for reporting, responses from sighters identified in the national survey were not statistically meaningful because the answers are from so few respondents. Reasons given by nonsighters, which represent a response to a hypothetical situation, are interesting primarily in that they may be regarded as reflecting the views of most of the American public. As can be seen in Table 11, the dominant reason of nonsighters is "I would want to know what it was." The other alternative frequently endorsed is "because strange objects should be reported.
In the questionnaire for project sighters was an identica1 question. Project sighters' reasons appear in Table 12 These sighters, who
|I would want to know what it was||49%|
|Because strange objects should be reported||36|
|I would be worried about it||7|
|Because other people have seen UFOs||--|
|It is the best way to convince people that UFOs really exist||4|
|I would want to know what it was||29%|
|Because strange objects should be reported||43|
|I would be worried about it||6|
|Because other people have seen UFOs||2|
|It is the best way to convince people that UFOs really exist||11|
|* Percents total more than 100% because multiple reasons were permitted.|
filled in a questionnaire sent to them, tended to give more than one "major reason." The alternatives "because a strange object should be reported," "other" (reason supplied by the respondent), and "I wanted to know what it was" were most frequently indicated, in that order.
The sighters in the national survey who reported their sightings and the project sighters both were asked: "How satisfied were you with the way your report of the UFO was handled?" Those few sighters in the national survey who reported were about evenly divided between satisfaction and dissatisfaction; again problems of interpretation arise because the results are based on only seven sighters. The responses of project sighters are presented with qualifications. These individuals received their questionnaires directly from the project and the fact that they had been asked by us for further information may have altered their evaluations of the "handling of the report." More than two-thirds were satisfied. Not to be overlooked in the interpretation of these findings is the fact that their reports had survived the reporting process and had become case files.
The remaining national survey respondents, sighters who did not report and nonsighters who said they would not report a sighting, were asked to indicated which reasons influenced their decisions. Respondents were permitted to indicate as many reasons as influenced their decision, and they were asked to indicate the one reason that was the most important. A comparison of Table 13, a summary of sighter responses, and Table 14, a summary of nonsighter responses, shows that the sighter and nonsighter groups are quite similar. The most important reason of both for not reporting was that the event was probably "something normal that must have looked funny for one reason or another." Fear of ridicule was the reason second in order of importance for both sighters and nonsighters. The combined replies to alternatives 6 and 8 which are concerned with knowledge about whom to notify and how to notify is third in order of importance, and the combined replies to alternatives 4 and 5 which suggest ineffectiveness and indifference on the part of authorities rank only fourth.
These findings contrast markedly with those of Ennis, who found that more than one-half of the victims who did not report crimes had a negative
|Reasons Influencing Decision||Most Important Reason|
|1.||Did not want to take the time, might mean time lost from work||0%||0%|
|2.||Afraid of ridicule; people would think I was a nut or crazy||28||19|
|3.||Thought it was a private matter||26||8|
|4.||Authorities couldn't do anything||19||4|
|5.||Authorities wouldn't want to be bothered about it||23||6|
|6.||Didn't know how to notify them or know that they should be notified||26||10|
|7.||Too confused or upset to notify them||4||0|
|8.||Didn't know to whom to report it||13||6|
|9.||It was probably something normal that just looked funny for one reason or another||58||40|
* Percents do not total 100 because multiple reasons were permitted.
** Percents are based on the total number of non-reporters the question. Eight percent of the respondents are not represented because they indicated more than one reason.
| ||Reasons Influencing Decision||Most Important Reason|
|1.||Would not want to take the time, might mean time lost from work||7%||1%|
|2.||Afraid of ridicule; people might think I was a nut or crazy||38||20|
|3.||Would think it is a private matter||12||4|
|4.||Authorities could not do anything about it||21||7|
|5.||Authorities would not want to be bothered about it||16||4|
|6.||Do not know how to notify them or that they should be notified||22||4|
|7.||Would be too confused or upset to notify them||9||3|
|8.||Would not know to whom to report||31||12|
|9.||Probably the thing seen would be something normal that just looks funny for one reason or another||63||43|
|Total||219% *||98% **|
* Percents do not total 100 because multiple reasons were permitted.
** Percents are based on the total number of nonsighters answering the question. Two percent of the respondents are not represented because they indicated more than one reason.
view of the effectiveness of the police (l967a). Although the present study is concerned not only with the police, but also with other agencies to which UFO phenomena might be reported, it appears that the treatment expected from such an agency is not the primary deterrent to reporting. If failure to report possible UFOs had the same origins as failure to report crime, ineffectiveness and indifference on the part of authorities should have attained a higher ranking among the alternatives.
The finding that most sighters do not report their sightings, and the nature of the reasons for not reporting, given by sighters and non- sighters alike, suggest two considerations regarding the reporting process. The first is related to rapport between the public and officials of public agencies. Having assumed that the event is "something normal," the sighter apparently feels that it is inappropriate to report it. "Appropriateness" may be the key concept here; the question raised is: "When is it appropriate to report something as a 'possible UFO'?"
The second consideration is access. Not knowing whom to notify and how to notify them reveals that the appropriate avenue is not available or, at least, is not visible to the individual. Hence the concepts of appropriateness and access seem to be interdependent in considering the problem of reporting.
Further consideration of "appropriateness" is beyond the domain of this discussion, but various public agencies, although concerned with different problems, have attempted to solve the problem of access by making it clear to the public who is to be contacted. Examples of such efforts include the establishment of poison control centers and suicide prevention services, which -- like the police and fire departments -- may be reached by phone at any time of day.
If the public is uncertain as to what agency is to be notified about a possible UFO, its uncertainty may mirror uncertainty among a agencies themselves as to which of them should handle UFO reports. If such is the case (and our survey research has no information either to confirm or negate this possibility), it would account, in part, for both the uncertainty as to the correct procedure for reporting and the expectation that authorities may be either indifferent or ineffective. These findings
clarify some of the factors which influence the reporting process, as seen by the respondents at the time of the survey.
ATTITUDES AND OPINIONS
The attitudes and opinion of the respondents in the four surveys will be discussed first in terms of responses to the single opinion statements and, second, in terms of scores on attitude scales measuring four general concepts.
Attitudes and opinions are very similar concepts. Hilgard (1962) provides these basic definitions:
Attitude. An orientation toward or away from some object, concept, or situation; a readiness to respond in a predetermined manner to the object, concept, or situation. Opinion. A judgment or belief involving an expectation or prediction about behavior or events.
The reponses of the persons surveyed will be considered both as opinions and as attitudes.
The 29 opinion items used in the surveys and the percentages of adults and the percentages of teen-agers responding "true" and "false" to each statement appear in Table 15. Interpretation of these findings, however, requires a word of caution. First, it must be noted that the proportion in agreement with one item is not necessarily the same as that for an item similar to it. It appears that a change in wording or a slight change in emphasis results in different responses. For example, it is possible that the use of the word "science," instead of "scientists," or "government," instead of "government agency" or "Air Force," even in the same context will not render the sane kinds of responses. Moreover, the items were initially selected to represent various beliefs which are frequently voiced with respect to the UPO problem. Consequently, some of the statements are fairly complex, and, as a result, complexity is another factor contributing to me variability in response. Therefore, the results appearing in Table 15 should be regarded simply as one way of describing public opinion.
Table 15 reveals some fairly consistent differences between the adult and teen samples. For example, a greater proportion of teen-agers
|1.||Some flying saucers have tried to communicate with us.||24%||76%||(1886)||37%||63%||(432)|
|2.||All UFO reports can be explained either as well understood happenings or as hoaxes.||55%||45%||(1886)||53%||47%||(433)|
|3.||The Air Force is doing an adequate job of investigation of UFO reports and UFO generally.||83%||17%||(1861)||72%||28%||(434)|
|4.||No actual, physical evidence has ever been obtained from a UFO.||63%||37%||(1824)||54%||46%||(433)|
|5.||A government agency maintains a Top Secret file of UFO reports that are deliberately withheld from the public.||69%||31%||(1852)||73%||27%||(434)|
|6.||No airline pilots have seen UFOs.||41%||59%||(1820)||32%||68%||(432)|
|7.||Most people would not report seeing a UFO for fear of losing a job.||33%||67%||(1839)||42%||58%||(445)|
|8.||No authentic photographs have ever been taken of UFOs.||46%||54%||(1743)||34%||66%||(442)|
|9.||Persons who believe they have communicated with visitors from outer space are mentally ill.||44%||56%||(1823)||38%||62%||(444)|
|10.||The Air Force has been told to explain all UFO sightings reported to them as natural or man-made happenIngs or events.||60%||40%||(1804)||60%||40%||(443)|
|11.||Earth has been visited at least once in its history by beings from another world.||28%||72%||(1809)||47%||53%||(443)|
|12.||The government should spend more money than it does now to study what UFOs are and where they come from.||46%||54%||(1815)||63%||37%||(433)|
|13.||Intelligent forms of life cannot exist elsewhere in the universe.||30%||70%||(1812)||22%||78%||(434)|
|14.||Flying saucers can be explained scientifically without any important new discoveries.||46%||54%||(1807)||35%||65%||(429)|
|15.||Some UFOs have landed and left marks in the ground.||41%||59%||(1783)||54%||46%||(433)|
|16.||Most UFOs are due to secret defense projects, either ours or another country's.||57%||43%||(1798)||54%||46%||(431)|
|17.||UFOs are reported throughout the world.||87%||13%||(1801)||86%||14%||(433)|
|18.||The government has done a good job of examining UFO reports.||71%||29%||(1796)||58%||42%||(431)|
|19.||There have never been any UFO sightings in Soviet Russia.||27%||73%||(1698)||26%||74%||(433)|
|20.||People want to believe that life exists elsewhere than on Earth.||82%||18%||(1813)||75%||25%||(429)|
|21.||There have been good radar reports of UFOs.||62%||38%||(1736)||65%||35%||(429)|
|22.||There is no government secrecy about UFOs.||37%||63%||(1830)||31%||69%||(431)|
|23.||People have seen space ships that did not come from this planet.||40%||60%||(1807)||61%||39%||(430)|
|24.||Some UFO reports have come from astronomers.||67%||33%||(1718)||77%||23%||(429)|
|25.||Even the most unusual UFO report could be explained by the laws of science if we knew enough science||73%||27%||(1818)||63%||37%||(423)|
|26.||People who do not believe in flying saucers must be stupid.||15%||85%||(1831)||15%||85%||(433)|
|27.||UFO reports have not been taken seriously by any government agency.||30%||70%||(1801)||29%||71%||(430)|
|28.||Government secrecy about UFOs is an idea made up by the newspapers.||26%||74%||(1779)||25%||75%||(442)|
|29.||Science has established that there are such things as "Unidentified Flying Objects."||76%||24%||(1824)||78%||22%||(440)|
tend to agree with statements which suggest evidence for the existence of UFOs. However, the use of attitude scales, rather than single items, provides a more reliable estimate of opinion and a better basis for making group comparisons regarding a general topic.
Four scales based on the UFO items (see Table 16 for scale composition) were employed to determine whether individuals felt that UFOs were from outer space, whether they felt there was evidence for the existence of UFOs, whether the government was seen as handling the problem adequately, and whether secrecy in this matter was attributable to the government. Any scale score larger than .50 is in the direction of acceptance of the scale concept, e.g., evidence exists, secrecy exists, etc., while any score smaller than .50 is in the direction of rejection of the scale concept. The farther the score from .50, the stronger the acceptance or rejection.
Analyses of the findings by scale may be found in Tables 16, 17, and 18. Table 16 presents scale information for the adult and teen samples of the national opinion survey. Table 17 provides information on the sighter and nonsighter groups in the adult sample and on the sighter sample drawn from project files. The project sighters are unique in that they are all reporting sighters as compared with the national sighters, of whom 87% are nonreporters and in their willingness to participate in an opinion survey conducted by mail. Because these respondents are essentially self-selected by their willingness to participate in the survey, they may not be assumed to be representative of all sighters whose reports are in the case files of the Colorado project. The kind of bias this self-selection might introduce in unknown. Table 18 presents the information collected by the project from the college samples. The data on college students in the first column exclude students enrolled in the UFO classes. These latter students are represented in the second column.
Responses of students in UFO classes are interesting because of their exposure to material concerning UFOs and because of their high interest in the topic. Rather than attribute differences between this group and any other group to exposure to an UFO course, one might
|SCALE||Adult Sample||Teen Sample|
|SCALE||Nonsighters*||Sighters, Adult Sample||Sighters
|SCALE||College Students *||UFO Classes|
|* Not included are students enrolled in Flying Saucer Classes.|
assume that these students are essentially self-selected on the basis of their prior attitudes or interest.
On only two of the scales do the mean scale scores for any group represent views antithetical to those of another. Differences of mean opinion on the other two scales represent only differences in degree of acceptance or rejection.
On the outer space scale, adults tend to respond negatively to the hypothesis that UFOs are extraterrestrial in origin, while teen-agers and college students, on the average, are almost neutral, and the two groups of sighters tend to react with greater degrees of acceptance of the possibility.
On the adequacy scale, both adults and teens are inclined to view the government's efforts as adequate. The mean scale value for sighters, though of a middle position, leans toward a negative view of the government's adequacy in investigating the UFO problem. This finding cannot be explained solely in terms of sighters' first-hand experience with reporting, because most of the sighters in the national survey were non-reporters. The mean score of college students falls between those of teen-agers and sighters.
On the remaining two scales, differences of opinion are merely a matter of degree, with the mean scale scores for all groups in the same direction. It would appear that the majority of respondents in all groups feel that there is some evidence for the existence of UFOs, with the adults and teen-agers tending to be the most neutral. The adults tend to be the most cautious in their view, with a mean close to the midpoint of the scale. Teen-agers tend to give more support to the possibility that evidence for UFOs does exist, and both groups of sighters seem nearly certain that evidence does exist.
A similar pattern is evident for the responses regarding secrecy. All groups to a greater or lesser degree, tend to suspect government secrecy with regard to UFOs and UFO reports.
Differences between adult and teen scores on three of the four scales, the outer space, evidence, and adequacy scales, were found to be significant at the .01 level. A t test (McNemar, 1962), modified for the present
data was used; the sampling error for comparison of survey variable values was estimated, on the basis of sampling tolerances provided by ORC, to be approximately 20% greater than under the assumption of simple random sampling, yielding a design factor (Kish, 1965) of 1.20, which was incorporated in the t test.
Because these findings are the result of opinion surveys, they do not imply that, for example, evidence or secrecy actually exists. The findings only reflect opinions held by the adult, teen, college, and project sighter samples in our surveys, and only the findings for the adult and teen samples may be considered indicative of the opinions of adults and teens in the general population.
CORRELATES OF ATTITUDES
Our analysis of the 1966 Gallup data suggests that age and education but particularly age, may be related to opinions regarding UFOs and related topics. In the analysis of the Gallup data, it appeared that the younger and the better educated persons are more likely to say that flying saucers are "real" and that there are "people somewhat like ourselves living on other planets in the universe." The differences between mean scores on four attitude scales for adults and teen-agers from the national opinion survey (Table 19) once again suggest that age may be a factor in determining attitude.
Two kinds of analyses of the adult survey sample were undertaken to examine the relationships between age and opinion and between education and opinion. In Table 19 are the scores for adults on the four scales by age. The younger the age group, the less the respondents tend to reject the extra-terrestrial hypothesis, the more inclined they are to believe that there is evidence for UFOs and government secrecy about them; younger respondents also tend to be slightly less satisfied with government handling of the "UFO problem."
Findings also related to age have been reported by David R. Deener (1967). In a survey of 1,200 persons conducted in New Orleans, La., he found that 61% of those polled under 25 years of age, 48% of those aged 25 to 29, and 34% of those aged 50 and over felt that flying saucers are real. When asked if they thought flying saucers come from outer
70 and above
space, 47% of those under 25, 27% of those aged 25 to 49, and 19% of those 50 and over answered yes (Times-Picayune, 5 November 1967). According to Strentz (1967), Eugene J. Webb obtained data in 1966 that indicated that as age increases, the proportion of respondents who think UFOs are from some other planet decreases. In that study, a greater proportion of younger that older respondents also felt that the government is concealing information about UFOs.
Patterns are less clear for the analyses by education, Table 20. It does appear, however, that education is related to attitudes regarding evidence and secrecy. Better educated individuals feel more strongly that both evidence and secrecy exist.
Because education and income are frequently examined together as determinants of socio-economic status, family income was chosen as an additional variable for the analysis of correlates. Instead of using mean scores for groups, a correlational approach was employed. Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficients (McNemar, 1962) were calculated. It was found that the correlation between age and education is -0.37, age and family income, -0.33, and education and family income, +0.45. The correlations of these three demographic variables with the four scales appears in Table 21. All correlations are significant at the .01 level, except for the correlation between family income and the adequacy scale, which is not statistically significant. Of the three demographic variables, age is the strongest single predictor of opinion.
The correlations of the scales with age seem strong enough to warrant some speculations regarding its role in the nature of opinion expressed. These findings reflect, perhaps, something interesting about either a) the change of beliefs and attitudes with age, or b) the changing nature of beliefs and attitudes. To test the former interpretation would necessitate a prospective study in which the same attitudes are assessed at five- or ten-year intervals, using the same respondents.
In consideration of the marked changes that have taken place in culture and technology during the past 40 years (noting that the oldest respondents in the sample were young adults 40 years ago) and particularly during the past 20 years (during which time the youngest members of the
|Less than 8th Grade|
|High School Incomplete|
|High School Completed|
* Correlation coefficients are based on the adult sample.
sample were growing up and receiving most of their formal education), the second interpretation seems highly tenable. Because the younger people have been exposed exclusively or primarily to the "space age," an era of accelerated technological advance and an era in which educational objectives have moved from the acquisition of facts to an emphasis on inquiry and problem-solving, it may be that age differences for the outer space and the evidence scales may reflect a greater readiness on the part of younger people to accept as possible that which has not, at present, been demonstrated.
At one time flying to the moon was only fantasy; now the plans for the landing of the first manned spacecraft are being completed. In addition, not only the scientific community, but the general public are aware of special technical problems, such as those concerning "soft landings," and zero gravity conditions of space flight. At the same time, television, a major medium of entertainment and information, is able to give the appearance of reality to that which is technologically impossible -- at least at this time. As a result of these and other factors, the younger person may have a greater range of acceptance for "what might be" than the older generation.
Given the findings of the present study, one might suspect that reactions to various projected or hypothesized social, scientific, and technological changes would reveal similar kinds of age and, perhaps, education differences. Such changes might include chemical methods to increase the capacity for memory, human hibernation, permanently inhabited undersea colonies, or the major use of rockets for commercial transportation -- all of which have been included among projections for the future (Kahn and wiener, 1967). The major implication of this discussion is that the present findings relating age and education to attitudes regarding UFO phenomena may, in large measure, reflect the changing technology and culture.
Inherent in the above speculations are at least two research questions which may be posed. The first of these concerns formal training in the sciences, the second concerns exposure to information Sources.
The measure of education used in the present study simply represents years of schooling. If the above interpretations are correct in relating attitude to differential exposure to a changing technology and culture by way of age, it should prove interesting to examine further attitudes with respect to both the nature of the individual's education and to age. Attitudes of persons trained in the physical sciences might be compared with those of comparable levels of education in other fields; the views of older scientists within a discipline might be compared with those of the younger.
The second variable suggested by the present research is differential exposure to information sources. To what extent do age-related attitudes reflect differential exposure either to popular or to technical sources of scientific information? For example, do younger people have a greater knowledge of the sciences and in particular of recent scientific developments? Is interest in an exposure to science fiction predictive of attitudes about conditions not now technologically possible or culturally familiar? Such questions as these may clarify the apparent relationships which are suggested by the present findings regarding attitudes toward UFO phenomena.
Apart from these speculations, there are a number of procedures in the social psychology of UFO phenomena which merit consideration for further study, as William A. Scott has pointed out (1968), and which could not be studied by the Colorado Project.
Scott suggests that, for example, the cognitive correlates of UFO phenomena might be studied in terms of a) the subject's interest in and information about UFO phenomena; b) the degree and range of credibility that the subject attaches to reported sightings; c) the subject's knowledge of possibly confounding illusions and misinterpretations e.g., atmospheric and astronomical phenomena; d) attitudes related to the process of hypothesis testing, the process of considering and rejecting alternative explanations, the rapidity with which the subject reaches a conclusion, and the certainty that he attaches to his interpretation; e) the degree of cognitive elaboration evidenced when the subject is exposed to a mock-up or experimental UFO.
Another area which the limitations of time and funds made it impracticable to study is that concerned with communication processes. Among the possible foci of study are the ways in which consensus develops among observers and the effects of communication upon that consensus. Still another approach might be the comparison of independent interpretations of the same UFO phenomenon. A related area of research might include studies of the effect of publicity on the frequency and nature of reports, the effect of the interviewers' (e.g., journalists', researchers') attitudes on the respondents' reports, and the effect of communication between subjects on the convergence and clarity of their reports.
Other suggestions for further studies of UFO phenomena, in the field of social psychiatry, are made by Rhine (Section VI, Chapter 3).
It is the writer's judgment that, in evaluating the feasibility and desirability of such further studies, their costs, material and non-material, need to be weighed against the potential usefulness of the resulting data. The ultimate value of further studies concerning the social psychological aspects of UFO phenomena may rest on the generality of the processes studied and the degree to which the research contributes to the advancement of the behavioral and social sciences.
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