We seem to be told again and again that the majority of Americans reject evolutionary science. But is this true? After all people often draw unwarranted conclusions from polling data.
A recent Gallup poll seems to contradict the popular view. It’s worth considering this poll because the questions asked are similar to those used in last year’s UMR Research poll showing 75% of New Zealanders accept evolution (see New Zealand supports evolution).
The questions asked in the Gallup poll were: “Which comes closest to your views:
- Humans developed over millions of years, God guided;
- Humans developed over millions of years, God had no part;
- God created humans as is within the last 10,000 years.”
Results showed 50% accepted evolution while 44% rejected it.
In fact this level of acceptance has not changed markedly over the last 26 years. Polling using these questions shows creationist support varying between 43 and 47% since 1982.
Support of theistic evolution
We can also compare the proportion of theists who accept evolution in the two countries. This poll indicates 45% of US theists accept evolution. In New Zealand the figure is 53%.
However, a worrying conclusion from this poll is the role that organised religion may play in promoting unscientific beliefs. The level of support for creationism rose from 24% amongst those who seldom or never attended church, to 50% amongst those attending monthly, and 70% amongst those attending weekly.
I can appreciate that people may attend church regularly for a sense of community, social support and spiritual satisfaction. But it is sad if this turns them against scientific knowledge.