According to a 2014 NPR poll 26% of Americans believe the sun revolves around the Earth.

The survey of 2,200 people in the United States was conducted by the NSF in 2012 and released on Friday at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

To the question "Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth," 26 percent of those surveyed answered incorrectly.

This seems too ridiculous. Is there any evidence other than this to back it up?

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    It would be nice to see the methodology of that survey though. Sep 19, 2016 at 14:23
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    Deleted Linguistic prescriptivist versus descriptivist arguments about the definition of "American", and pedantry about the centre of mass of the combined orbits of the Sun and Earth. Neither discussion was helping answer or clarify the question. Take it to English.SE or Astronomy.SE respectively.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 20, 2016 at 2:22
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    I would personally answer wrong if asked, just to see a funny poll later on. Sep 20, 2016 at 8:40
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    I work in orbital mechanics. "Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth" is not a good question because all frames of reference are equally valid. When modeling the behavior of a spacecraft orbiting the Earth, a frame that has the spacecraft and the Sun orbiting the Earth yields better results than does a frame that has the Sun, the Earth, all the other planets, and the spacecraft orbiting the solar system barycenter. That said, take away the Earth orbiting spacecraft and you'll get better results using the solar system barycenter as the reference point. Sep 20, 2016 at 11:47
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    Both answers were correct, it depends on the point of reference. I think heliocentric people who think the Sun is the absolute center of the universe are even more ridiculous than the geocentric people they make fun of.
    – Oriol
    Sep 20, 2016 at 15:50

1 Answer 1


Is there any evidence other than this to back it up?

A Gallup poll in 1999 found that 18% of Americans thought the Sun revolves around the earth.

So there is support for the notion that substantial numbers of people in the US hold this belief.

A 2005 EU survey is reported as finding that a higher percentage of Europeans held the same view.

The sample size of this sort of survey seems to be around one or two thousand.

  • 37
    I thought this was probably due to misleading wording of the question, but I was wrong. The European question is slightly misleading ("The Sun goes around the Earth - True/False".), which explains the higher percentage there (29%), but the American question was "As far as you know, does the earth revolve around the sun, or does the sun revolve around the earth?", which is quite hard to misunderstand.
    – Peter
    Sep 19, 2016 at 17:27
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    @JAB Alternatively, how about: The Sun and the Earth certainly revolve. And, I drive around town; the speaker talks around the subject. So, the Sun revolves around the Earth - as opposed to revolving nowhere near the Earth. Completely correct statement: poor phrasing of the question.
    – SusanW
    Sep 19, 2016 at 18:08
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    I agree this is probably due to confusion about what "A revolves around B" means. If you showed them diagrams of the Earth revolving around the sun and vice-versa, I think far fewer people would get it wrong. Sep 19, 2016 at 19:24
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    There will also be a subset of people who gave that answer deliberately. Sep 19, 2016 at 20:30
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    Both orbit around each their barycenter.... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barycenter Sep 19, 2016 at 21:10

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