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Biden’s Administration Says It’s Not Shooting Down Alien Life. Americans Still Want To Believe.

The flying objects recently spotted across the U.S. and Canada were unidentified, at least in the beginning. But the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, made an effort during a press briefing this week to reassure Americans that the origins of the recent UFOs spotted in Canada and the U.S. and shot down by the U.S. military, including a Chinese spy balloon, were earthly. “I know there have been questions and concerns about this, but there is no — again, no — indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns,” she said, to laughter in the press room.

But these reassurances from the Biden administration may fall on deaf ears. Today, Americans are more willing to believe that “unidentified” means “from a far-away galaxy.”

A Gallup poll from July 2021 found that 41 percent of Americans believed that some spotted UFOs were alien spacecraft, up 8 points from the poll two years before. In 2019, Gallup found that three-fourths of Americans also thought there was some form of life on other planets, and 68 percent thought the government was withholding information about UFOs.

This rise came in the wake of reports of strange sightings by U.S. Navy pilots over the past decade. The pilots reported objects that looked unusual and seemed to move in unexplainable ways. While the likeliest explanations for these “aerial phenomena,” according to the government and experts, range from pilots’ sensory overload to testing for classified advanced research programs within the U.S. or from other countries, a 2021 report by intelligence officials revealed few solid answers … and didn’t rule out alien life. In a Pew Research Center poll from that same year, a majority of Americans, 51 percent, said what Navy pilots and other military officials had reported was “definitely” or “probably” evidence for extraterrestrial life. The same survey found that younger Americans are even more likely to believe alien life exists.

Former President Barack Obama, who was in office when many of the sightings occurred, added to the mystery when he said, “But what is true … is that there is footage and records of objects in the skies that we don’t know exactly what they are. We can’t explain how they move, their trajectory,” on The Late Show with James Corden. “They did not have an easily explainable pattern. So I think that people still take seriously trying to investigate and figure out what that is. But I have nothing to report to you today.”

The Obama presidential library may also have thousands of documents related to UFOs. Maybe the truth is in there.

Of course, many Americans believe the United States government has a long history of covering up evidence of alien life and attempts by extraterrestrials to contact us. Last year, on the 75th anniversary of the date that many believe aliens crash-landed at Roswell, New Mexico, a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll found that about a third of Americans believed the event was plausible. What’s more, willingness to believe in aliens at Roswell was spread evenly across demographic groups and political affiliations.

Despite Americans being open to the belief that extraterrestrials are buzzing in our airspace, most aren’t too worried about UFOs from space being a national security threat. But the more earthly explanations Jean-Pierre was referring to in her press conference have had consequences: The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, canceled a planned diplomatic trip to China. Tensions between the two countries remain high. And no matter where the objects might have come from or what they were intended to do, the U.S. has focused its attention in recent days on the skies.

Other polling bites

  • President Biden did not get an approval bump from his State of the Union address last week, according to a Morning Consult survey conducted from Feb. 10 to 12. But some of Biden’s talking points, including his promise to protect Medicare and Social Security during the looming debt ceiling fight, may prove popular. During the speech, Biden said that some Republicans wanted the two programs to sunset, prompting boos from GOP representatives who accused him of lying. But in the same Morning Consult survey, 46 percent of registered voters thought the Republican Party would try to cut those programs, and a Navigator survey taken after the speech found that half of registered voters trust Democratics to protect those programs. Social Security and Medicare remain overwhelmingly popular with the American public. A YouGov survey from Feb. 11 to 14 found that an overwhelming 80 percent of Americans opposed cutting those programs, and a Data for Progress survey found that 78 percent of likely voters support expanding Social Security.
  • Sixty-three percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the level of immigration to the country; of that group, a 64 percent majority say they want the level of immigration to decrease, according to a Gallup survey from January. Overall, the number of Americans who want immigration to decrease stands at 40 percent, more than double the number two years ago. There’s also a partisan split in how Americans view immigration: 71 percent of Republicans say there should be less immigration. Only 19 percent of Democrats agree. And while that’s a jump from only 2 percent of Democrats two years ago, Americans seem to be aware of a partisan split on this issue: An Ipsos poll from Feb. 3 to 5 found that 78 percent of adults think Americans are far apart on the issue of immigration, ranking it as one of the more divisive political issues asked about.
  • After a toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, a Civic Science poll found that 41 percent of American adults surveyed don’t trust their state and federal leaders to handle a similar incident “at all,” with only 19 percent saying they trusted officials “a lot.”
  • A record 63 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with U.S. gun laws, according to a Gallup survey from January. Unsurprisingly there’s a partisan divide on the issue, with only 14 percent of Democrats reporting satisfaction with the state of gun regulation, compared to 54 percent of Republicans. That number for Republicans, however, is a drop from 69 percent two years ago. Gun policy is likely to remain a big issue: A nonprofit research group, the Gun Violence Archive, tracks all gun-related violence in the U.S. and has found 72 mass shootings so far this year.1 Meanwhile, majorities of adults from many of America’s peer nations view gun violence, crime and policing as major problems in the U.S., according to a Morning Consult survey conducted in 17 countries late last year. More than 70 percent of respondents in France, Germany, the U.K., Canada, and Australia think gun violence in the U.S. is a problem.

Biden Approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker,2 43.1 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 51.8 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -8.8 points). At this time last week, 42.7 percent approved and 52 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -9.3 points). One month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 43.9 percent and a disapproval rating of 51.0 percent, for a net approval rating of -7.1 points.


  1. As of Feb. 16.

  2. As of 5 p.m. E.T. on Thursday.

Monica Potts is a senior politics reporter at FiveThirtyEight.


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