More on Gallup's evolution poll

A poll released last week found that a substantial chunk of Americans think that humans were created 10,000 years ago, and evolved over millions of years. Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll explains that and other insights by pulling together their data on public views of evolution.

The most interesting data to me was a crosstabulation of the views on evolution and creationism.

View of Evolution and View of Creationism
Numbers Represent % of Total Sample


View of Creationism


Definitely
true

Probably
true

Probably
false

Definitely
false

%

%

%

%

View of Evolution

Definitely true

3

1

2

11

Probably true

5

14

12

3

Probably false

6

8

1

1

Definitely false

24

3

*

1

* Less than 0.5%

My expectation would be that most people would fall on the diagonal from the lower left to the upper right. That prediction basically holds, but for one exception. As many people stated that both were "probably true" as that evolution was probably true and creationism probably false.

"It may be," Newport explains, "that some respondents were seeking a way to express their views that evolution may have been initiated by or guided by God, and told the interviewer that they agreed with both evolution and creationism in an effort to express this more complex attitude." This was roughly what I had hypothesized last week.

Newport provides additional data to support this hypothesis. In Gallup's monthly panel of questions, they ask "Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings - 1) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, 2) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process, 3) God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?"

Phrased like that, about 15% chose evolution without any divine involvement, 45% chose special creation, and 40% selected evolution with some divine guidance. Those numbers have been fairly stable for 25 years (though support for evolution without divine involvement has risen from 9% to 14% since 1982). Intelligent design advocates should take note that the question as asked does not allow us to differentiate ID creationists from theistic evolutionists (or from young earth creationists), and that despite their millions of dollars spent promoting their agenda, public views have not shifted in any meaningful way on this issue. Most of the shift in support for non-theistic evolution can be explained by changes in the number of people with "no opinion," though none of the changes over that 25 years is statistically significant.

The reasons evolution deniers gave for their beliefs were predictable. When they were asked "What is the most important reason why you would say you do not believe in evolution?," 19% volunteered some version of "I believe in Jesus Christ." Another 9% explained that they were Christian, 16% said it was because "I believe in the almighty God, creator of Heaven and Earth." An additional 16% explained that it was "due to my religion and faith," and 12% stated that it was because they believe what they read in the Bible. Only 17% gave a reason that actually addressed evolution specifically, with 14% claiming there wasn't enough scientific evidence, and 3% stating that they don't believe that humans come from "monkeys/beasts." Not surprisingly, people who attend church regularly are the most likely to reject evolution.

i-279e3ea3087fea1e317fbefce138b0c1-partyevolution.pngThat isn't the only factor involved. Politics plays a role. Newport doesn't report any statistical tests to say whether politics plays a significant role after you account for church attendance, and it should be noted that the correlation with church attendance is stronger than the correlation with party identification.

What this means is that evolution can be turned into a useful wedge issue by Democrats. As with so many things, Independents align with Democrats and are mirror images of most Republicans. Democrats and Independents accept evolution in some form, so Democratic candidates don't have to do the obfuscatory dance that Sam Brownback and the rest of the Republican party have had to do over basic science.

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Very interesting analysis, the best one I have seen on this poll. I think you made a typo, though, when you say

"Intelligent design advocates should take note that the question as asked does not allow us to differentiate ID creationists from theistic evolutionists (or from young earth creationists)"

I think you meant "old earth creationists", not young.

No, I meant that IDolators could fall into either theistic camp. OECs would have trouble fitting into any of the options, depending how they interpret "developed over millions of years" and whether they'd be comfortable saying that human "developed" from "less advanced forms of life." I'm guessing they'd pick option 3, since they still think humans were created specially.

hmmm, interesting