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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Fifty-one percent of Americans believe UFOs reported by military personnel are likely evidence of intelligent alien life, according to a new poll released by Pew last week.

Why it matters: Questions about whether smart aliens have come to visit Earth have been asked for decades, and these results show that curiosity — which can sometimes verge into conspiracy theory — persists.

What they found: The new poll surveyed 10,417 U.S. adults in June ahead of the release of a UFO report mandated by Congress and made public at the end of June.

  • About 65% of respondents said they think there is intelligent alien life on planets other than Earth, and about 87% said UFOs aren't a security threat to the U.S. at all or only represent a minor one, Pew found.
  • According to the poll, only 12% of American adults had heard or read a lot about the UFO report before its release.
  • "Some segments of the public are more likely than others to believe that intelligent life exists on other planets," Pew wrote in a release. "This view is especially pronounced among younger Americans. About three-quarters (76%) of adults under age 30 say intelligent life exists on other planets, versus 57% of those 50 and older."

The bottom line: In all likelihood, evidence of alien life won't come in the form of a grainy video taken high above an ocean, but will instead be the discovery of tiny, fossilized microbes on Mars, or some other little creature swimming through an ocean engulfing a distant moon.

Go deeper

Aug 7, 2021 - Sports

Exclusive poll: Trouble ahead for the Beijing Olympics

Expand chart
Data: Momentive; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Nearly half of Americans say China shouldn't be allowed to host the Winter Games in 2022 because of its record of human rights abuses, a new Axios/Momentive poll finds.

Why it matters: These results suggest that, in addition to facing public health challenges over the continued spread of COVID, the Beijing Games will be politically divisive for a large segment of the American audience.

12 mins ago - World

At least 2 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least two people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Monday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Axios over the phone that two people had been confirmed to have died in the disaster.

Airlines call for Biden admin's "immediate intervention" in 5G deployment

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The CEOs of leading U.S. air cargo and passenger carriers on Monday warned the Biden administration there could be "catastrophic disruption" after AT&T and Verizon deploy a new 5G service this week.

Driving the news: They said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other top federal officials ahead of the C-Band 5G service's deployment Wednesday that "the nation's commerce will grind to a halt" and "could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas."