Do you believe in psychics?

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
October 05, 2011, 11:56 AM GMT+0

Around a quarter of British people have consulted a ‘psychic’, and well over half of those to have done so believe that they were truthful, our poll has found. However, a third of those who did consult a psychic say that they were ‘not truthful’, and just over one in ten of them say that they only consulted the service ‘for fun’.

  • 23% of Britons have consulted a psychic
  • 11% of this group admit that they saw a psychic ‘just for fun’
  • 57% of those who have consulted a psychic thought that they were ‘truthful’, compared to 33% saying that they were not

Across the general public as whole, though, scepticism runs much higher.

  • Just 14% said that psychics have a genuine ability to ‘predict the future’ and ‘contact the dead’
  • Around a quarter (24%) of people say that while they do not believe that psychics have real abilities, they concede that those who claim to be psychic genuinely ‘do believe’ that they can predict the future or contact the dead
  • However, a larger proportion went further, with over a third (34%) of Britons feeling that psychics are not only without ability, but also ‘deliberately deceiving the public’ by claiming to have skills that they do not possess

‘An amazing gift’

Sally Morgan, described as ‘Britain’s best-loved psychic’ and ‘the daily confidante of Princess Diana’, has been a hot topic in the news of late, amid accusations that she ‘cheated’ her psychic abilities on stage. An audience member contends that she heard ‘a man’s voice relaying information’ to the psychic superstar on stage who, 10 seconds later, claimed to be talking to the spirit of David’. This, the audience member claims, proves that Morgan was deceiving the audience and does not actually hold the psychic abilities she claims to have.

On her website, Sally herself says that her ‘psychic life’ began ‘before she could walk’, and calls her powers an ‘amazing gift’ that, while sometimes being difficult and emotional, have ‘helped so many’. She explains how she has had to work for many years before ‘taking control of the mysteries of the spirit world’, and says that living in ‘a cynical world’ means that she has to prove herself ‘time and time again’. She has refuted the accusations levelled at her as ‘ludicrous’, saying that the earpiece she had in was simply part of her microphone, and was not connected to anyone backstage.

‘Happy to be deceived’

However, critic Paul Zenon, a stage magician, told the Daily Mail that stage psychics and mediums have propagated the myth of contacting the dead for years.

He says that psychics use several methods including Internet detective software prior to shows, ‘to overcome our natural disbelief in their so-called powers’. He said that the difference between his ‘magic’ and the claimed ‘psychic’ powers of performers, is that ‘when people come to see a magician…they’re happy to be deceived because it’s skilful, entertaining and fun – unlike at shows such as Sally Morgan’s, when the audience [are duped into] genuinely believing that they are communing with the dead.’

See the survey details and full results here