astrology news

31 Percent of Americans “Believe” in Astrology

A new Harris Poll was released yesterday in which 31 percent of respondents said that they “believed” in astrology. 51 percent said that they don’t believe in it, while 18 percent said that they were not sure.

The poll was apparently conducted online with 2,126 Americans between November 10th and the 17th, 2008.

I noticed some skeptic trumpeting this number because it ranks towards the bottom of other beliefs related to religion, UFOs and ghosts, but I think that he sort of overlooked the fact that this is a two point increase over a similar poll that the same company did in 2007 which said that 29 percent of Americans believed in astrology. This 2007 poll actually showed a 4 point increase over another one that was done in 2005 which showed that only 25 percent of Americans believed in astrology.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this clearly shows an increase of “belief” in astrology, I don’t think that this is necessarily cause for skeptics of astrology to start dancing in the streets. The large number of undecided people makes you wonder what exactly they were unsure about. That is to say, was it that they were unsure about whether or not astrology is a legitimate phenomena, or was it that they were unsure about what exactly constituted “belief” in astrology?

Nick Campion actually addressed this issue in his recent book What Do Astrologers Believe?. After examining some recent statistical studies which show high levels of people who say that they pay attention to or follow astrology in one way or another but don’t believe in it, he raises the question:

why do people who claim not to believe in astrology still choose to read about it?

Campion ends up concluding

Most people seem to think there is something in astrology although they would not consciously let it influence their decisions.

Most astrologers actually object to the notion that astrology is a belief system, and would probably object to such a query quite indignantly. There is this interview that Campion did with Liz Greene a few years ago that illustrates this common position that astrologers often take:

Nick Campion: Would you say that astrology itself is a belief system?

Liz Greene: No, I wouldn’t, any more than any symbol is a belief system. I don’t know what symbols are, except that they seem to emerge organically as containers of a multitude of conflicting and complicated patterns that are connected in some way. We don’t manufacture them, and we certainly don’t believe in them. They are there anyway. We perceive them, notice them, and make connections between them. “Believing” in astrology makes no sense to me. It is nonsense to say, “I believe in it,” because belief is something you do when you have no direct experience. Astrology is something that requires experience and hands-on work to see whether it conveys any meaning or relevance. So, it is like saying, “Do you believe in your car?” No, I just drive it. I have no idea how it runs, but if it works, well, fine. People who say they believe in astrology are either using the wrong word or don’t know what they are talking about.

So, this raises some questions. Is it proper to ask people if they “believe” in astrology, and would such a study provide an accurate assessment of the popularity of astrology? If a person is not sure if they “believe” in astrology, what does that mean exactly?

Would a person who adhered to a specific religion that frowned upon astrology say that they don’t ‘believe’ in astrology simply as a way of saying that they don’t follow it, despite whether or not they think that there is anything to it?

Would astrologers themselves actually classify astrology as a belief system, in the same sense that they might be able to classify other religious, philosophical or metaphysical views that they have as belief systems?

What do you think?

8 replies on “31 Percent of Americans “Believe” in Astrology”

I have to disagree with Greene and say that her answer to the question was just…silly. (decided against stronger word). Personally, I do think it’s possible to “believe” in astrology. I think it’s a bit ridiculous to compare it to a car whose existence and effect on the world are non-debatable, and I can certainly see how people have to believe that their car will safely carry them from one place to another, but perhaps I misunderstand her point.

Belief: confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof.

Up to this point, there has not been a very good study of astrology by the scientific community, in short, astrology lacks “hard” proof and the only “proof” people have in justifying the existence and effects of astrology happens to be anecdotal. That’s not very good, but somehow our personal experiences with astrology have led us to trust in something that we don’t completely understand and something that we may never be able to completely grasp. I’m pretty sure that qualifies as “belief”.

I guess that the question boils down to whether or not astrology actually works, or does represent a tangible phenomena in the universe, versus the notion that there is no legitimacy to astrology whatsoever, thus leading skeptics to classify it purely as a belief or a superstition.

The underlying assumption is that a belief isn’t necessarily real. Like for example if a person was to say “I believe that the Earth is flat.”

I think that this was the underlying connotations of the word “belief” that Greene was objecting to. The notion that astrologers believe in something simply for the sake of believing it, rather than believing in it because they think that it actually works.

Astrology has been introduced as something not real to most. It’s been classed along with such things as magic. It has been misguided as anti-Christian. It is the belief in their religion that has given people prejudices toward astrology. It’s mostly fear based. There is a general lack of knowledge about what astrology is. A belief is something that is held as a truth based on feelings and without proof and people tend to have many feelings about astrology without real understanding. To ask if people believe in astrology would only give a sense of peoples feelings toward the subject but tells us little about how many have a true grasp on what astrology is.

Umm that’s not what she meant.. She meant it can be proven.. and it kind of seems it can be.. the natal charts and recurring themes in someones personality… definitely are available.. Astro synastry compatability btwn two people

“I think that this was the underlying connotations of the word “belief” that Greene was objecting to. The notion that astrologers believe in something simply for the sake of believing it, rather than believing in it because they think that it actually works.”

^ Couldn’t of said that better probably.

It’s the Latter the second one specifically… I would never just blindly believe in something .. that’s why I don’t believe in organized Religion, but I do believe in God and Deism