Who believes in astrology?
No matter how you tweak it there doesn’t appear to be a simple answer to this question. In an article for The Conversation, British astrologer, author and educator Nicholas Campion describes his research and some conclusions he’s arrived at on the subject.
At Bath Spa University in the U.K. Associate Professor Campion is Senior Lecturer in the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology and is director of the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture. He also is course director of the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
“We cannot simply say that followers of astrology wholly believe in it, or that others completely disbelieve. It’s a complex question, even for professional astrologers and researchers,” he said.
He calls for more fluid categories of belief and disbelief to help sort the matter.
“It’s important to work out how many people believe in astrology, and why. The time is ripe for some serious investigation,” he said.
Campion says evidence suggests that more than 90 percent of adults know their sun (Zodiac) signs and well over half agree that the signs’ character descriptions are a good fit. For example, Aries are energetic, Tauruses stubborn and Scorpios secretive.
To find out what those who are dedicated followers or professionally involved in astrology think, he distributed questionnaires to public groups and astrological conferences between 1998 and 2012. The purpose of this research was specifically to establish how many people believe in astrology and why, he said.
He notes that most published figures for belief in astrology are derived from Gallup polls taken In Britain, Canada and the U.S. between 1975 and 1996. Around 25 percent of adults polled answered yes to questions such as do you believe in horoscopes?
“We might expect that all practitioners and students of astrology would say they believe. However, when I put the question to delegates at a British Astrological Association conference just 27 percent said yes –about the same as the general population.
“When I asked the astrologers who didn’t believe for their reasons, they replied that astrology is no more a matter of belief than television or music. It is real, so has nothing to do with belief. Put another way, people only believe in things that don’t exist, which is why public surveys on belief can come up with misleading results.”
Campion says during his research he followed an established method of asking a series of questions on attitudes and activity while avoiding mention of belief altogether. The picture that emerged “is more complex than the simple binary distinction between belief and disbelief suggests,” he wrote, adding:
“In one of my groups, comprised mostly of male students aged 18 to 21, I found that 70 percent read a horoscope column once a month and 51 percent valued its advice. Other questions produced a huge variation: 98 percent knew their sun sign, 45 percent thought it described their personalities, 25 percent said it can make accurate forecasts, and 20 percent think the stars influence life on earth. The higher figures are close to previous research, which showed that 73 percent of British adults believe in astrology while the lowest figures are similar to those found by Gallup’s polls.”
Campion says he asked other questions about the students’ behavior as well as their attitudes. Nearly half (45 percent) confessed to finding out potential or actual partners sun signs so they could manage their relationships better. And 31 percent read their predictions for the year ahead.
“What became clear from all my surveys is that when we ask questions about personal experience, meaning and behavior- such as valuing an astrologer’s advice or finding our partners’ signs – positive responses are about twice as high, if not more, than when we ask for statements of objective fact, such as does astrology make accurate forecasts?
“My samples were small and each one represented a snapshot of a particular group, which makes it difficult to generalize. But all suggest that when we ask a variety of questions we arrive at different answers.
“How many people believe in astrology? It could be 22 percent. It may be 73 percent. The difference between the two figures is what I call the belief gap, the zone of doubt and uncertainty between deep and shallow commitment.
“So why do people believe in astrology? The problem we have is in establishing reliable research. If we can’t actually get to first base and find out how many people believe in it then attempts to establish why people find it meaningful – a better word than belief – get stuck,” he said.