ALBUQUERQUE, NM–Heavenly, beatific angels and extraterrestrial aliens are deadlocked in the fight for the hearts and minds of the American people, a study released Tuesday by the University of New Mexico reports.

Angel

Alien

"While 100 percent of Americans believe there exist otherworldly beings who watch over humanity, we as a nation are deeply divided over the exact nature of these beings," study chair Joseph A. Castillo, Ph.D., said. "Are they sent from Heaven to protect us? Or are they sent from Beta Centauri to study and capture us? This is the question that lies at the very core of the American experience."

According to the study, 50.3 percent of Americans believe in angels while 49.7 percent believe in aliens.

"My guardian angel makes sure that no harm ever comes to me," said Emporia, KS, widow Gertrude Eberhardt, 77. "My angel is pure love, with rosy cheeks and wings of gold. With my angel around me, I am never alone."

"We are definitely not alone," said Kenneth Ogden, a 26-year-old San Mateo, CA, computer programmer. "Millions of aliens are living right here in the United States. The government knows all about it, but they don't want the public to know. The Pentagon has known for years. It's all documented in their secret files."

Evidence of the battle between America's angel and alien factions can be found throughout the media: In movie theaters, films like City Of Angels and Michael compete against Men In Black and Independence Day. In bookstores, Evelyn Bence's All Night, All Day, Angels Watching Over Me and Terry Law's The Truth About Angels vie for shelf space with the latest books concerning the federal cover-ups of Roswell and Area 51. On television, Touched By An Angel faces off against The X-Files.

"It's just so ridiculous, these kooks who believe that little green men from outer space are spying on us," said Waltham, MA, resident Deborah Logan, 44, who recently appeared on Oprah after angels miraculously caused her breast cancer to go into remission. "I mean, come on."

"There is absolutely no evidence suggesting the existence of angels," said Dave Wechtler, 27, a Detroit-area cashier whose July 1996 alien abduction was profiled on the TV program Psi Factor. "Has there ever been a crop circle that was made by angels? Was Stonehenge made by angels? Of course not."

In interviews conducted by the New Mexico team, study subjects described angels as everything from "invisible" to "blindingly beautiful." Others said that angels look "the same as you or me" or "just like my poor little Melissa." The most commonly cited reason for angels' visitation of humans was "to provide love, protection, beauty and guidance."

Descriptions of aliens are similarly varied. While some Americans believe aliens are loving creatures who have come to offer guidance, others contend that their intent is to wreak havoc on Earth.

"One night last September, a blinding, reddish-yellow light hovered over my garage. The next morning, my dog was gone," said Frank Scelisi of Scottsdale, AZ. "The aliens, they have plans for us all."

"I'm thankful that angels are here with us," said Pamela Trombley, a 51-year-old nurse from Butte, MT. "Angels keep Satan at bay when God is too busy loving us all."

Added Trombley: "I know that angels are real because it says so in the Bible."

According to University of New Mexico researcher Nathan Bailes, the differences between the two groups extend beyond their choice of otherworldly being.

"The typical angel believer is a middle-aged, rural, churchgoing female who watches daytime television," Bailes said. "The typical alien believer, on the other hand, is a young, urban, non-churchgoing male who watches late-night TV."

The New Mexico study also found that the average angel believer has 5.4 children, compared to just 1.8 for the average alien believer.

But for all their differences, Bailes stressed that the angel and alien halves of the U.S. populace are united by two shared characteristics: a crippling pre-millennial anxiety and a love of purchasing things.

"It's important to remember that, deep down inside, we're really not all that different," Bailes said. "Whether we believe in winged messengers named Gabriel or bulbous-headed space creatures named XJ68734, we're all frightened of the unknowable void that is the future, and we all love to buy T-shirts, coffee mugs and other crap with angels or aliens on it."