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U.S. Public opinion polls on evolution & creationism

North American polls, from 2007 to 2010.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2007: Gallup Poll:

In the spring of 2007, following an all-candidates meeting of ten Republicans seeking the presidency, three denied a personal belief in evolution. This promoted the Gallup Organization to ask American adults between 2007-MAY-21-24:

"Do you, personally, believe in evolution or not."

This is one of the poorest questions that we have ever seen by any polling company, because people generally hold one of three beliefs concerning origins:

  • Naturalistic evolution: Evolution happened according to purely natural forces and processes without any divine guidance.

  • Theistic evolution: Evolution happened and was/is guided by God.

  • Creationism: Species were created individually by God.

When a person is asked if they believe in evolution, they might interpret the question as belief in naturalistic evolution only. Alternately, they might consider it as asking whether one believes in either naturalistic or theistic evolution. Pollsters tend to like simple yes and no answers. Sometimes they do not handle questions well where there are three or more discrete positions.

In addition, some people regard evolution as covering only the development of life forms from the first one-celled animal to the present diversity of plants and animals. Others define the term more broadly, and include the origins of the universe, the origin of the first life forms, the development of galaxies, stars, planetary systems, development of mountain ranges, continental drift, etc.

The results, for what they are worth are a statistical draw:

  • 49% believe in "Evolution;"

  • 48% do not;

  • 2% have no opinion.

As expected, more highly educated adults believe in "evolution:"

  • 74% of people with post-graduate degrees believe in "evolution," as do:

  • 48% of college graduates

  • 50% of adults with some college

  • 41% of adults with high school or less.

More frequent attendance at religious services correlated with a lack of belief in "evolution:"

  • 24% of those who attend weekly believe in evolution, as do

  • 52% of those who attend nearly weekly or monthly, and

  • 71% of those who attend seldom or never.

As expected, political affiliation reflects a difference of opinion on origins:

  • Only 30% of Republicans believe in "evolution;" 68% do not.

  • 61% of independents believe in "evolution;" 37% do not.

  • 57% of Democrats believe in "evolution;" 40% do not.

The five main reasons why people say they do not believe in "evolution" are their belief Jesus Christ, belief in God, "due to my religion or faith," "not enough evidence," and belief in the Bible. 3

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2008-JUL: Beliefs about creationism and evolution in Canada:

About 150 years after Charles Darwin published his world changing book "The Origin of Species," Angus Reid Strategies studied the beliefs of Candian adults about evolution and young-earth creationism. They found that:

  • 58% of Canadian adults believe that human beings evolved from less advanced forms of life.

  • 22% of those sampled said that God created human beings within the last ten thousand years.

  • 20% were not sure or didn't answer.

  • Results by gender: 69% of men and 48% of women believe in evolution; 28% of women believe in creationism vs. 16% of men.

  • Results by age: 67% of younger adults believe in evolution.

  • Results by education: 47% of respondents with a high school diploma or less believe in evolution; 8% of persons with a college or technical school diploma agree. So do 71% of university graduates where believe in evolution.

  • Results by political orientation: 29% of Conserative party supporters believe in creationism outnumber creationists by 7% to 14%.

Number sampled = 1,007. Margin of error is ±3.1 percentage points. Data was constant within 1 percentage point between polls conducted in mid-2007 and mid-2008.

In spite of the close similarities between American and Canadian cultures, belief in evolution differs markedly in the two countries. The main reason might be religious belief. Evangelical Christian are only about a third as common in Canada as in the U.S. Also, about 40% of Americans say that they attend religious services weekly, whereas only about 20% of Canadians say that they do. (Actually, about half are lying, as the real church attendance -- confirmed by counting noses among attendees one county at a time -- show that actual attendance is about half what adults say.)

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2010: Gallup Poll showing breakdown by education, and church attendance:

Results for the poll reported on 2010-DEC-17 showed a significant drop in support for belief in creationism, and a corresponding increase in the acceptance of the two types of evolution during the previous four years. They were:

Belief system> Creationist view Theistic evolution Naturalistic Evolution

Beliefs>

God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, including man's creation. Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. God had no part in this process.
Everyone 40% 30% 16%
       
Postgraduates 22 49 25
College graduates 37 38 21
Some college 44 36 16
High school diploma or less 47 34 9
       
Attend church weekly 60 31 2
Attend church almost weekly 41 47 9
Seldom or never attend church 24 39 31

These results show how difficult it is for people to maintain their religiously-based beliefs in creationism in college, and how much church attendance indirectly increases belief in creationism.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "GOP debate reveals widespread ignorance of science, startling role of how religion is affecting politics, culture," AANews newsletter, 2007-MAY-06.
  2. Johnathan Moore, "What do Americans believe about the origin of species," Public Religion Project, 1998-OCT-12.
  3. Frank Newport, "Evolution Beliefs," Gallup Organization, 2007-JUN-11, at: http://www.galluppoll.com/
  4. Wikipedia
  5. Jeff Hecht, "Why doesn't America believe in evolution?" New Scientist, 2006-AUG-19, at: http://www.newscientist.com/
  6. "Canadians believe human beings evolved over millions of years," Angus Reid Strategies, 2008-AUG-05, at: http://www.angusreidglobal.com/

Copyright © 1995 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published on 1995-NOV. 
Last update: 2014-JUN-04
Author: B.A. Robinson
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