International efforts to look for aliens have so far been met with radio silence. Despite intriguing signals (that occasionally turn out to be from microwave ovens in observatory tea rooms), so far no likely candidates for intelligent life contacting Earth have been identified, nor any signs of advanced aliens minding their own business. Yes, that includes Boyajian's star.
Aliens, it's fair to say, have not been chatty.
If aliens were to be discovered, however, it's not clear what we would like to happen next. A new survey in the UK carried out by researchers from the University of Oxford sought to find out what the British public would like to happen in the event E.T. did get in touch. In what came close to the cursed 48-52 percent split that has haunted British politics for the past three years, they found that just over half (53.6 percent) of people would want us to respond to communication from aliens.
The poll, which was conducted on 2,000 people in the UK, found that men were more likely to want to touch base with extraterrestrials than women (55 percent of men vs 47 percent of women). Because "why not", the survey also compared its results with how people voted in the 2016 Brexit referendum. They found a reasonable split between the two groups of voters, with 66 percent of remain voters saying that they would vote to initiate contact with aliens, whilst only 54 percent of leave voters said they'd do the same, if a worldwide referendum on the issue was held.
However, after several years of Brexit chaos, it appears the UK has learned its lesson: Do not put complex questions with many uncertain outcomes to a public yes/no vote in the first place.
The survey, conducted by Survation, found that just 11 percent of UK participants thought there should be a referendum on the topic, should we receive a message from the skies. Of the options posed, the most popular choice was to put a team of scientists in charge of this vital decision-making, with 39.3 percent of participants saying they favored it, much more than the 14.8 percent of people who thought the decision should be made by elected representatives.
“It is a bit surprising the option that nominally gives the average voter the most influence in the process was one of the least popular,” said Dr Leah Trueblood, who commissioned the survey along with astrophysicist Dr Peter Hatfield, discussing their results at the British Science Festival this week, the Guardian reports.
“Referendums are of course particularly controversial in the UK right now. It would be interesting to try this in other countries to see if the results are about the same.”
Were it to be put to a referendum (oh god) they found that 56.3 percent would vote in favor of contact, with just 13 percent saying they would vote against it. Weirdly, 9.2 percent said they would not vote in the referendum.
“It’s a small poll but it’s reassuring that people feel they can trust scientists to make these big decisions," Dr Hatfield said. Although maybe, after years of Brexit mess, they just don't trust how the public would vote?
[H/T: The Guardian]