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Gallup Vault: Eyewitnesses to Flying Saucers

Gallup Vault: Eyewitnesses to Flying Saucers

Fifty years ago this week, 5% of Americans, including 6% of college graduates, told Gallup they had at some time seen something they thought was a "flying saucer" -- what Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta recently referred to as "unidentified aerial phenomena."

1966: Have you, yourself, ever seen anything you thought was a "flying saucer"?
Yes% No%
U.S. adults 5 95
College 6 94
High school 4 96
Grade school 6 94
April 14-19, 1966
Gallup Poll

In the same poll, nearly all Americans -- 96% -- said they had heard or read about flying saucers. Further, 46% of this group thought these were "something real" rather than just people's imagination. However, most came up blank when asked, "What do you think these 'flying saucers' are?" Only 7% of Americans thought they were real vehicles or objects of some kind from outer space. Slightly more thought they were Air Force tests or experimental projects (9%), while smaller percentages cited meteors (2%), "swamp gases" (3%) or weather balloons (1%).

Podesta's enthusiasm for declassifying the government's UFO files is reportedly the reason Clinton has said she will pursue this if elected president. According to The Huffington Post, "He [Podesta] has made me personally pledge we are going to get the information out," Clinton said. "One way or another. Maybe we could have, like, a task force to go to Area 51."

Area 51 refers to a high-security Air Force facility in Nevada that many UFO-believers have long suspected houses alien life and spacecraft, partly because of its proximity to some high-profile UFO sightings. For the record, the percentage of Americans in April 1966 saying they had seen flying saucers was fairly evenly distributed across the four major regions of the country: 6% in the Midwest, 5% in the East and South, and 3% in the West.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

Read more from the Gallup Vault.

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