This Gallup poll is about ten months old, but I don’t think I’ve posted it before, and I like to update the statistics since the same poll is given every year. The question, too, is always the same (see below) and deals specifically with human evolution. Here are the overall data:
Gallup’s summary is this:
Gallup has asked Americans to choose among these three explanations for the origin and development of human beings 11 times since 1982. Although the percentages choosing each view have varied from survey to survey, the 46% who today choose the creationist explanation is virtually the same as the 45% average over that period — and very similar to the 44% who chose that explanation in 1982. The 32% who choose the “theistic evolution” view that humans evolved under God’s guidance is slightly below the 30-year average of 37%, while the 15% choosing the secular evolution view is slightly higher (12%).
The bad news is that young-earth creationists still comprise nearly half of Americans, while 2/3 of the remainder accept a form of theistic evolution (and “God’s guiding” probably means, to most of them, a direct intervention of God in creating humans rather than a deistic view that God set up the physical conditions, and maybe the Ur-organism, and then it run. Fewer than one in six Americans accept evolution as scientists do: a materialistic, unguided process with no supernatural intervention. The unguided evolution stats are up a bit over the past 30 years—nearly 50%—but it’s still a fraction of what it should be in an enlightened country.
Here are the data broken down by church attendance. The tend is clear, as always: the more you go to church, the more likely you are to be a creationist and less likely to believe in naturalistic evolution. Curiously, theistic evolution is found more frequently among those who go to church less often:
No surprise here: Republicans are far more likely to be young-earth creationists, and less likely to be naturalistic evolutionists, than are Democrats. Nearly 60% of Republicans are young-earth creationists with respect to humans (remember, the question is how humans came to be). I think it’s fair to conclude that most Republicans are deluded when it comes to science. They should not be trusted to run our country.
And, as usual, the more educated you are, the less likely you are to be a creationist and the more likely you are to be a naturalistic evolutionist (or a theistic evolutionist!):
Here’s the Gallup conclusion, carefully hedged:
Despite the many changes that have taken place in American society and culture over the past 30 years, including new discoveries in biological and social science, there has been virtually no sustained change in Americans’ views of the origin of the human species since 1982. The 46% of Americans who today believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years is little changed from the 44% who believed this 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question.
More broadly, some 78% of Americans today believe that God had a hand in the development of humans in some way, just slightly less than the percentage who felt this way 30 years ago.
All in all, there is no evidence in this trend of a substantial movement toward a secular viewpoint on human origins.
Most Americans are not scientists, of course, and cannot be expected to understand all of the latest evidence and competing viewpoints on the development of the human species. Still, it would be hard to dispute that most scientists who study humans agree that the species evolved over millions of years, and that relatively few scientists believe that humans began in their current form only 10,000 years ago without the benefit of evolution. Thus, almost half of Americans today hold a belief, at least as measured by this question wording, that is at odds with the preponderance of the scientific literature.
The summary of the statistics is fine, but the implication that Americans can’t understand human evolution is ludicrous. True, maybe many Americans can’t understand the “latest evidence and competing viewpoints” on human evolution, but really, they can see and understand clearly the evidence that humans did evolve from arboreal small-brained, big-teethed primates. The evidence is in my book, for crying out loud, and isn’t hard to grasp!
Further the “competing viewpoints” idea, while formally true (we’re not yet sure, except for Neanderthals, Denisovans, and the latest fossils, which species are on the direct line to modern Homo sapiens, and which are side branches that became extinct), has the sinister implication that there’s dissent about whether humans evolved at all. They should add as well that “relatively few scientists believe that God guided the evolution of humans.”
The summary is somewhat of a sop to evolution-deniers, unworthy of a respectable poll.