Year-End Poll: America and Evolution

Do Americans think humans evolved?  Sorta.

Thanks to the watchful folks at the National Center for Science Education, we see a new year-end poll from the Pew Research Center.

The Pew folks talked to about 2,000 respondents over the phone.  All told, about sixty percent of them seem to accept evolution, while a third rejected it.

As always, the wording of these questions matters.  In this poll, respondents were asked if they thought humans or animals had “existed in their present form since the beginning of time,” or if they had “evolved over time.”

When interviewers put it that way, a significant majority of Americans seems to agree that humans or animals had evolved over time.  In contrast, when the Gallup pollsters ask people to pick between three options, a larger percentage–nearly half of respondents–tend to agree that “God created humans beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last ten thousand years or so.”

It seems Americans have an easier time agreeing that humans had evolved over time than they do agreeing that “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.”  Indeed, many of the respondents who agreed that humans or animals had evolved over time also believed that God had directed this process.

Breaking it down by demographic groups, we see some predictable results.  White evangelical Protestants tended to reject evolution in the largest numbers (64%).  Republicans tended to reject evolution more often than Democrats.

One surprise: no one seemed to care much if they were talking about human or non-human evolution.  In the past, as historians such as Ron Numbers have demonstrated, the sticking point of much resistance to evolution has been specifically human evolution.  In this poll, however, the answers did not change much when the questions were about human or animal evolution.



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