Creationism Loses Public Popularity

Creationism Loses Public Popularity July 25, 2013

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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