Creationism Loses Public Popularity

Just when we start to think the regressive policies of red states mean the battle is becoming harder, the secular movement gets more proof that what we’re doing really does matter.

A poll of 1,000 people conducted by the Internet-based market research firm YouGov earlier this month indicates that since 2004, the level of public acceptance of creationism and the level for support for teaching creationism in U.S. public schools are down, and the level of acceptance of the theory of evolution is up.

Coming the week marking the 88th anniversary of the Scopes Monkey Trial, this is good news indeed. The numbers are far lower than what they need to be, though. While nearly half of the respondents agreed that evolution, whether guided by a deity or not, resulted in homo sapiens sapiens, significantly more than a third rejected evolution altogether and the remaining 17% claimed uncertainty.

YouGov’s poll marks substantial change from a similar CBS poll conducted in 2004. Thirteen percent of CBS’s 2004 respondents agreed with the statement. “Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, and God did not directly guide this process.” In 2013 the figure jumped to 21%. Correspondingly, strong creationism has taken the hardest hit. In 2004, 55% of respondents said that “God created human beings in their present form within the last ten thousand years,” and 5% said they were undecided. The strict creationists now account for 37% of the respondents.

The demographics of the respondents is fairly predictable. Fewer women (37%) accept some form of evolution than men (56%) and fewer women (13%) tend to identify themselves as non-religious than men (20%).

Older respondents favored creationism, while respondents under the age of 30 favored evolution, whether guided by a deity or not. The largest number of strict evolutionists was among this youngest age group, which tells us that insisting on keeping science in science class is working.

Unsurprisingly, only 5% of Republicans agreed that evolution happens without a deity guiding it. The additional 30% of Republicans who agreed evolution is a thing believe that their god directs it.

Democrats (28%) are closely followed by political independents (26%) in their acceptance of non-divine evolution, while an additional 25% and 21%, respectively, think God drives the evolution train. This means that more than half of non-Republicans accept evolutionary science. Among Republicans, 55% believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old and a god created human beings in their present form.

The respondents most strongly denying evolution were Muslims, with 64% believing young-earth creationism and 36% uncertain. None of the respondents identifying as Muslim would admit that they accepted evolution. Protestant (59%) and the various Orthodox churches (53%) tied for the next largest group of evolution deniers.

The strongest supporters of evolution? Believe it or not, it isn’t the religiously unaffiliated. All of the Buddhists polled accepted evolution, although 13% of them said a deity guided it. Agnostics (85%) accept evolution, 17% of whom say God guided it. The remaining 15% aren’t sure.

The atheist respondents throw a curve to the poll, though. Two percent of those identifying as atheist also claim to be young earth creationists. Since 48 atheists responded to the survey, that means one person in there somewhere is either very confused or clicked the wrong radio button.

Other demographics spread pretty much as we might expect: the more educated the respondent, the less likely to believe in creationism. The coasts, made up mostly of blue states, are more accepting of evolution than the mostly-red Midwest and Southern states. People identifying as white were more likely than Hispanics to accept evolution, while only 6% of black people participating in the poll did.

The percentage of respondents who favor teaching creationism in public schools (40%) followed the same trends among the different groupings of respondents. Younger people opposed teaching creationism in larger numbers (42%), as did Democrats (29%) and Independents (31%). The more educated respondents disapproved of creationism in public schools more strongly than the less educated.

In its announcement of the poll, YouGov said that it “observed that the teaching of creationism in the public schools is unconstitutional, referring to the decisions in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) and Kitzmiller v. Dover (2005).”

See? We do make a difference!



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About Anne

Civil rights activist Anne Orsi is one of the spokespeople for the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers and is the primary organizer of Reason in the Rock, a conference on science, secularism and skepticism. Got a question? Email her at She's a lawyer but may not be licensed in your state. Sending her an email or reading her blog posts does not create an attorney-client relationship. Find Anne on Twitter as @aramink, and read her regular blog at

  • Ubi Dubium

    Two percent of those identifying as atheist also claim to be young earth creationists. Since 48 atheists responded to the survey, that means one person in there somewhere is either very confused or clicked the wrong radio button.

    Or that one person is someone who likes to mess with polls. I think that’s just as probable.

    • # zbowman

      He might think it was someone else entirely.

      • Silent Service

        Oh look, the Centari Ambasador to Earth. Isn’t he supposed t obe replaced by Londo Molari soon?

  • EmpiricalPierce

    Some of the best news I’ve heard in a while. Thanks for the info.

  • Kivrin

    Reading this news made my day! Although it’s disappointing to see creationism with any more support than, say, alchemy, any progress is good news and this certainly seems to indicate that progress is being made with respect to the public understanding of science. Especially given the breakdown by age group.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I think the idea of accepting evolution but thinking it’s guided by a deity is an oxymoron. The “unguidedness” of evolution is a really important part. You may accept evolution but it certainly isn’t evolution via natural selection.

    • Rain

      Hopefully Kenneth Miller will comment again and clear that up with some totally not obtuse explanation of that.

      • Art_Vandelay

        That was awesome but I was hoping we could get Francis Collins this time.

    • RachelBailey

      Honestly, at this point I’ll take what I can get. I’m even okay with a 1 sentence foot note in the textbooks somewhere that says “Some people believe that Evolution was guided by some form of deity”. At least they are willing to have Evolution taught. And their argument is that deity sets up situations where natural selection will happen in such a way as to have evolution end up where the deity wants it.

      • Art_Vandelay

        Yeah, but at the same time we could also add footnotes to math books saying that “Some people think the square root of 81 is pepperoni pizza.”

  • PhysicsGradStu

    Atheism does not really mean rationalism; There are I am sure, lot of atheists unfortunately believing in homeopathy, UFOs and YEC.

    • Michael W Busch

      I don’t know how much that happens in terms of young-Earth creationism.

      But there’s certainly lots of atheists who go for homeopathy/other alt-med woo, horoscopes, and odd pseudoscience such as blood type supposedly predicting personality (Furukawa Takeji’s particular form of nonsense, which is still popular in Japan).

  • Stev84

    Those are still terrifying numbers no matter how you look at them.

  • EvolutionKills

    Some faith in humanity has been restored, but unfortunately I don’t expect it to last too long…

  • Brian Pansky

    “None of the respondents identifying as Muslim would admit that they accepted evolution.”

    that’s odd, for some reason i thought that Muslims generally accept evolution. perhaps i’ve been mislead by some apologists…or the mistake was on my part.

    there are those claims that Muslims knew about the big bang and embryology etc so maybe i just thought they had all the other science too…

    • Sven2547

      Islamic creationism is a big thing in many countries, and it’s way more entrenched than Christian creationism is here… largely because it’s a criminal offense to disagree with Islam within most of the large Islamic countries.

  • Rain

    The additional 30% of Republicans who agreed evolution is a thing believe that their god directs it.

    That’s great. That’s way up from the 0% back in the caveman days before the wheel was invented. All they knew back then was “oogie boogie” and “fire bad”. Makin’ progress…