Two years ago, Research Co. and Glacier Media sought to learn more about the way Canadians feel about specific practices that have been branded as pseudoscience. Our questions on astrology, mediumship, clairvoyance and haunted houses aimed to provide an early measurement on the proportion of the country’s residents who accept each of these concepts as true.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way we communicate and connect with each other, regardless of the type of things Canadians believe in. We have endured provincewide regulations that compelled us to stay inside our homes. We also may have had an opportunity to be away from our regular office, thereby reducing our contact with co-workers and commuters. After almost two years of disruption to our daily routines, we were curious to find out if Canadians have become more likely to endorse ideas that have not been scientifically proven.
In the first few months of 2020, social media was inundated with messages related to the purported “prognostication” of the pandemic through astrology. As the months went by, interest in apps that track celestial objects grew around the world, especially with young people. At the same time, newspapers continued to publish daily horoscopes where readers were told that “a chance encounter with a stranger” would point them in a new direction—an impossibility at a time of lockdown.
As 2022 begins, Canadians are less interested in astrology. When we asked the country’s residents if they believe in studying the movements and relative positions of celestial objects to make observations about human affairs and terrestrial events, only 32% of respondents said they do, down four points since December 2019. Strong belief in astrology has also dropped, from 13% in 2019 to 9% now. Strong disbelief is slightly higher, from 36% two years ago to 39% now.
The fluctuation is directly connected with age. We see fewer Canadians aged 55 and over in tune with astrology (23%, down four points) and roughly the same numbers among those aged 35 to 54 (36%, down one point). In stark contrast, we now have a majority of Canadians aged 18 to 34 (55%) who “definitely” or “probably” believe in astrology, up six points since 2019.
On a regional basis, there is growth in the west. This year, 40% of Albertans (up 13 points) say they believe in astrology, along with 34% of British Columbians (up three points) and 31% of residents of Manitoba and Saskatchewan (also up three points).
The numbers are down at the national level due to a significant variation in the eastern provinces. Only 22% of Quebecers (down 14 points) believe in astrology, along with 30% of Atlantic Canadians (down seven points) and 38% of Ontarians (down four points).
Astrology might be a fun temporary relief for some Canadians, especially if they are trying to poke fun at people they just met after asking for their birthdate. There is a fundamental difference in believing in a concept and following it closely.
Across Canada, only 14% of adults are currently paying attention to astrology, down six points since 2019. Once again, the concept has been practically abandoned by those aged 35 to 54 (12%) and those aged 55 and over (11%). Still, 26% of Canadians aged 18 to 34 (down four points) are still engaged with astrology on a regular basis.
The other three concepts that we track also show no growth. We continue to see one third of Canadians who believe in haunted houses, or buildings being inhabited by the spirits of dead people (32%, down one point), almost three in ten who say clairvoyance, or gaining information about an object, person, location, or physical event through extrasensory perception, is real (28%, down three points), and more than a quarter who think mediumship, or mediating communication between living human beings and spirits of dead people, is factual (26%, down five points).
As is the case with astrology, belief in these concepts—mediumship, clairvoyance and haunted houses—plummets as Canadians age, but there are some regional quirks. British Columbia is ahead of the national average when it comes to thinking that haunted houses are real (38%). More than a third of Albertans (36%) accept clairvoyance as factual. These results provide a metaphor for the year ahead in the two provinces. Concerns about the housing market remain unabated in British Columbia, and Albertans might be happy to look into a crystal ball at a time of extreme contempt for their provincial and federal leaders.
Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.
Results are based on an online study conducted from December 15 to December 17, 2021, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error – which measures sample variability – is +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.