YouGov Poll Says Nearly 60% of Americans Believe the Devil is Real

Almost six in ten Americans believe the devil is real, and more than half think that people can be possessed by demons.

Those results are from a recent YouGov poll of 1,000 respondents, though it’s not clear how reliable the numbers are — I couldn’t find an explanation of the methodology. YouGov says its poll has a margin of error of three percent.

When you drill down past the headline and summary, you can see which religious adherents are most likely to believe that Satan exists. To no one’s surprise, “born-again” Christians top the list at 86%. The Lord of Darkness is met with a lot more skepticism in non-Christian circles: only 17% of Jews and 25% of Muslims believe that he’s real, as do 20 percent of Nones.

One odd poll result is that education level appears to be a bad predictor for devil-belief. YouGov tells us that 39% of high school dropouts think that exorcism is an effective way to deal with demonic possession. That number climbs to 49% for respondents who have “some college, and it’s still a fairly staggering 44% among post-grads. I’m not sure that makes sense: almost every other study I’ve seen, foreign and domestic, indicates that more education drives down superstition.

There are internal anomalies, too. When asked Do you believe someone can be possessed by the devil?, only 11 percent of Jewish respondents answered “Yes”; but when the question was Do you believe in the power of exorcism?, 37% of Jews answered in the affirmative. I don’t think that computes.

One thing to keep in mind is that Jews form only about two percent of the U.S. population, and Muslims less than one percent. If YouGov managed to find a representative sample of 1,000 people living in the United States, only 20 respondents would have been Jewish, and only eight or nine would have been Muslim.

Indeed, in this survey, the 11% of Jews who believe someone can be possessed by the devil came from a sample with only 23 Jews. The 37% of Jews who believe in exorcism came from a sample size that’s in the single digits. Those sub-samples are way too small to accurately represent the larger Jewish or Muslim population. As always, the devil is in the details.

(image via WallpaperTube)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.