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U.S. Public opinion polls on evolution & creation science

1987: Beliefs of earth & life scientists.
1982 to 2010: Beliefs of the American public

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1987: Beliefs of American earth and life scientists:

According to Newsweek in 1987:

"By one count there are some 700 scientists with respectable academic credentials (out of a total of 480,000 U.S. earth and life scientists) who give credence to creation-science..."

That would make the support for creation science among those branches of science who deal with the earth and its life forms to be about 0.14% 1

The American public generally believes quite differently. By the end of 2010, about 40% of adults believe in creation science.

1982 to 2010: Gallup polls:

The Gallup Organizations periodically asks randomly selected American adults about their beliefs on evolution and creation. They have conducted a poll of U.S. adults on at least ten occasions between 1982 and 2010. By keeping the wording of their questions almost identical, each year's results are comparable to the others. The main change that they have made is to use "human beings" in place of "man" -- presumably because it is less sexist. Keeping the questions unchanged facilitates the detection of trends. 2

Belief system> Creationist view Theistic evolution Naturalistic Evolution

Beliefs-->

 

 

Year

God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so. Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process. Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.
1982-JUL 44% 38% 9%
1993-JUN 47 35 11
1997-NOV 44 39 10
1999-AUG 47 40 9
2001-FEB 45 37 12
2004-NOV 45 38 13
mid-2006 46 36 13
Spring -2007 43 38 14
mid-2008 44 36 14
2010-DEC 40 38 16

These polls typically involve slightly over 1,000 subjects. The margin of error is ±4 percentage points.

One might expect a gradual increase in support for the creationist view, because of the increasing percentage of older Americans -- the Baby Boomers born shortly after World War II. People tend to be more committed to religion with age. However, support for creationism seems to have declined during the 21st century.

There appears to be a slow increase in belief of naturalistic evolution since it reached its minimum of 9% in 1999 to its present value in late 2010.

Since 2008, belief in evolution -- in its theistic or naturalistic forms -- have increased and now stand at 54%. Belief in creation science has decreased, and now stand at 40%. 3

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1991: Gallup Poll showing breakdown by sex, education, etc:

Results for the poll taken between 1991-NOV-21 and 24 were:

Belief system> Creationist view Theistic evolution Naturalistic Evolution

Beliefs>

God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, including man's creation. Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. God had no part in this process.
Everyone 47% 40% 9%
Men 39% 45% 11.5%
Women 53% 36% 6.6%
College graduates 25% 54% 16.5%
No high school diploma 65% 23% 4.6%
Income over $50,000 29% 50% 17%
Income under $20,000 59% 28% 6.5%
Caucasians 46% 40% 9%
African-Americans 53% 41% 4%

These results show how difficult it is for people to maintain their beliefs in creationism in college. See below for 2010 data.

1997: Gallup Poll comparing scientists with the general population:

Note the major differences between the beliefs of the general population and of scientists:

Belief system Creationist view Theistic evolution Naturalistic Evolution
Group of adults God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, including man's creation. Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. God had no part in this process.
Everyone 44% 39% 10%
Scientists 5% 40% 55%

The "scientist" group would presumably include biologists and geologists. But it would also include persons with professional degrees in fields unrelated to evolution, such as computer science, chemical engineering, physics, psychology, business administration, etc.

Political science professor George Bishop of the University of Cincinnati published a paper in 1998-AUG listing and interpreting 1997 poll data.

"Bishop notes that these figures have remained remarkably stable over time. These questions were first asked about 15 years ago, and the percentages in each category are almost identical. Moreover, the profiles of each group has been constant. Just as when these questions were first asked 15 years ago, creationists continue to be older, less educated, Southern, politically conservative, and biblically literal (among other things). Women and African-Americans were more likely to be creationists than whites and men. Meanwhile, younger, better educated, mainline Protestants and Catholics were more likely to land in the middle as theistic evolutionists." 4

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Larry Martz & Ann McDaniel, "Keeping God Out of Class (Washington and bureau reports)". Newsweek (Newsweek Inc.) 1987-JUN-29, Pages 22 & 23. ISSN 0028-9604
  2. "Reading the Polls on Evolution and Creationism," Pew Research Center, 2005-SEP-28, at: http://people-press.org/
  3. "Four in ten Americans believe in strict creationism," Gallup Polls, 2010-DEC-17, at: http://www.gallup.com/
  4. Johnathan Moore, "What do Americans believe about the origin of species," Public Religion Project, 1998-OCT-12.

Copyright © 1995 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published on 1995-NOV. 
Last update: 2011-FEB-12
Author: B.A. Robinson
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