About half of Americans believe ghosts and demons exist

Jamie BallardData Journalist
October 30, 2020, 8:15 PM UTC

A poll of more than 17,000 US adults finds that half (50%) believe that demons definitely or probably exist, and a similar number (46%) believe that ghosts do.  

Data from YouGov Profiles shows that religious people are more likely to believe in supernatural beings, although to what extent depends on denomination. 

Protestants (66%) and Muslims (62%) are more likely than others to say they believe demons exist. A majority of Mormons (60%) and Roman Catholics (58%) also believe in the existence of demonic entities. Atheists (10%), Jewish people (20%), and agnostics (23%), are the least likely to believe in demons.  

When it comes to ghosts, Mormons (57%), Roman Catholics (57%), those who define their religion as “something else,” (66%) and Muslims (52%) are the most likely to say they believe that ghosts definitely or probably exist. 

Atheists (18%), Jewish people (31%) and Agnostics (35%) are generally less likely to believe that ghosts exist.  

By 54% to 46%, women are more likely than men to believe in demons. The gap widens a bit further on the topic of ghosts, with 52% of women expressing a belief in ghosts compared with 40% of men.   

Looking at religion and gender together, among those religious groups populous enough to measure, it seems that men and women with the same religious beliefs tend to be similarly likely to believe in demons and ghosts – though there are a few exceptions. 

The largest religious gender gaps are among those who define their religious beliefs as “nothing in particular.” Six in ten women (59%) who describe their religious beliefs in such terms believe in ghosts, compared to 42% of men (42%). Likewise, half (50%) of women in this group believe in demons, compared to 36% of men. 

Agnostic women are similarly much more likely to believe in demons (28%) than agnostic men (20%) and ghosts in particular (46% vs 27%).  

Protestant women (49%) are 8 percentage points more likely than Protestant men (41%) to say they think ghosts are real, and 5 points more likely to say demons exist (69% vs 64%). 

Despite not believing in a god, female atheists (24%) are more than twice as likely as men who are atheists (9%) to believe that ghosts exist.  

Though belief in demons and ghosts tends to be higher with women overall, among Mormons, men (62% and 60% respectively) are in fact more likely than women (56% and 50%) to say they think ghosts definitely or probably exist. 

Methodology: Total weighted sample size was 17,407 US Adults aged 18+. Participants were asked: “Generally speaking, do you believe ghosts do or do not exist?” and “Generally speaking, do you believe demons do or do not exist?” The response options were: definitely exist, probably exist, probably do not exist, and definitely do not exist. The survey was conducted between October 22 – 25, 2020. The responding sample is weighted to provide a representative sample of the United States.   

Image: Getty