Two in five Americans say ghosts exist — and one in five say they've encountered one

Jamie BallardData Journalist
October 21, 2021, 8:26 PM UTC

With Halloween just days away, it’s the season for all things spooky: ghosts, demons, vampires, and more. A new YouGov survey of 1,000 American adults finds that many people aren’t convinced that these entities are just the stuff of scary stories and horror films.

More than two in five Americans say they believe demons (43%) exist, and a similar percentage (41%) say the same about ghosts. For both, more Americans say they do exist than say they don’t; the rest aren’t sure.

Far fewer Americans believe in the existence of werewolves (9%) or vampires (8%), though 31% think that “other supernatural beings” do exist.

Women are more likely than men to believe both in ghosts (50% vs 31%) and in demons (48% vs 38%). 

Education level may also play a part in whether a person believes in ghosts. Americans with post-graduate education are the least likely to believe in ghosts, at 28%, compared to 41% overall.

The same trend applies on the topic of whether demons exist. Americans who completed post-graduate education programs are the least likely to believe in demons, at 31%, compared to 43% overall.

Among men and women of different education levels, women are consistently more likely to believe in the existence of ghosts. Among women whose highest level of education completed is high school, 48% believe ghosts do exist. Among men with the same level of education, about half as many agree (27%). Similarly, among women who have completed a four-year degree, 50% believe in ghosts; 34% of comparably educated men do.

When it comes to demons, there is less of a gap between similarly educated men and women. About half (49%) of women whose highest completed education level is high school think demons exist; 32% of men at the same education level agree. Among those who completed a four-year degree, 45% of women and 42% of men think demons are real.

While belief levels in ghosts are consistent across political parties, there are political divides on belief in the existence of demons. About half of Republicans (51%) believe that demons are real, slightly more than the percentage of Independents (46%) who think this. Only about one-third (34%) of Democrats agree. These results show a very slight change from a similar YouGov poll conducted in 2019, in which 54% of Republicans and 37% of Democrats said they thought demons “definitely” or “probably” exist. 

One in five Americans say they have encountered a ghost 

While 41% of Americans believe that ghosts exist, about half as many (20%) say they have personally encountered a ghost. 

Women (25%) are more likely than men (16%) to say they have had at least one personal experience with a ghost. Americans under 30 (27%) are also more likely than Americans who are ages 30 through 44 (16%), 45 to 64 (20%), or 65 and older (20%) to say they have personally encountered a ghost, even though they’ve had fewer years of opportunity for paranormal encounters. 

Fewer Americans (11%) say that they’ve personally encountered a demon, and hardly any say they’ve crossed paths with a werewolf (4%) or a vampire (3%). About one in nine (11%) have encountered supernatural beings of a different type.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this YouGov poll

Related: The most popular Halloween candy in America

Methodology: 1,000 U.S. citizens, aged 18 and over, were surveyed for this poll on October 8 - 12, 2021. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in Internet panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2018 American Community Study. Voter registration was imputed from the November 2018 Current Population Survey Registration and Voting Supplement. The sample was weighted based on gender, age, race, education, news interest, and 2020 Presidential vote (or non-vote). The margin of error for the entire sample is approximately 4%.

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