Harris Poll on US Evolution Beliefs

AT the Harris Poll website we read Three in Five Adults Are Absolutely Certain There Is a God. We’re told:

A recent Harris Poll found that 82% of American adults believe in God. However, when asked how certain they were, only 59% are “absolutely certain” that there is a God, and another 15% say they are somewhat certain. This is one of the findings of The Harris Poll of 2,303 adults surveyed online between November 2 and 11, 2009 by Harris Interactive.


Those who are most likely to be either absolutely or somewhat certain there is no God, or to be unsure, are Jews (34%), people aged 25-29 (43%) and 30-39 (35%), college graduates (36%), post-graduates (34%), men (33%), and people on the coasts – 33% in the East, and 34% in the West.

Okay, that’s about God. What about evolution? For that we turn to another Harris link, where we read What People Do and Do Not Believe in. Here are some excerpts:

The survey also finds that:
61% of adults believe in hell;
61% believe in the virgin birth (Jesus born of Mary);
60% believe in the devil;
42% believe in ghosts;
32% believe in UFOs;
26% believe in astrology;
23% believe in witches;
20% believe in reincarnation – that they were once another person.

Isn’t it great? We continue:

There are very big differences between the beliefs of Catholics, Protestants, born-again Christians and Jews.


Catholics are more likely than all adults to believe in: God (94% compared to 82%); heaven (86% vs. 75%); angels (83% vs. 72%) … [and] are also somewhat more likely than all adults to believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (51% vs. 45%).

Protestants are also more likely to believe in God (92%); … heaven (90%); angels (88%) …

But Protestants are much less likely than all adults to believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (32%), ghosts (33%); astrology (20%); and reincarnation (13%). They are more likely than all adults to believe in creationism (56% vs. 40%).

Born-again Christians are much more likely than Catholics or all Protestants to believe in God (97%); heaven (97%); … angels (95%); … [and] are also much more likely to believe in creationism (68%), and much less likely to believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (16%).

Jews are, of course, very unlikely to believe in the basic elements of Christianity. They are also less likely than all adults to believe in miracles (63%); heaven (48%) … angels (36%) [and] are by far the most likely to believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (80%) and the least likely to believe in creationism (20%).

There’s lots more information at that second link we gave you. Check it out.

We also have a few older posts on US poll results. See: Majority of Likely US Voters Accept Evolution, and Harris Poll: Darwin Defeats Creationism, and Opinion Polls on Evolution and Creationism.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “Harris Poll on US Evolution Beliefs

  1. News Flash! Majority of Americans not Totally Insane! More at 11…

  2. Gabriel Hanna

    Note that Catholics are much more likely to believe in evolution than the general public; yet for so many atheists of the Dawkins stripe Catholics are a bugbear.

  3. I’m a bit confused. 82% believe in God. However, 59% are “absolutely certain” and 15% are “somewhat certain.” 59+15=74 What happened to the other 8%? People who take Pascal’s Wager seriously?

  4. Oh NO! Evolution is a Jewish conspiracy! 80% believe. Seems strange that the Jews would go along with a theory that caused the Holocaust.

  5. RogerE says: “Seems strange that the Jews would go along with a theory that caused the Holocaust.”

    The creationists must surely think so.

  6. Gabe, its because Catholics are the biggest and most organized of the Christian religions. So they make the easiest targets. Oh and there is something of a history of trying to deny science (Galileo, et all). However, if you really look at it, Catholicism is one of the more progressive in regards to science. Not always evenly in regards to all science (life sciences…), but in regards to cosmology, evolution, etc., they’ve made peace. The evangelicals and born again (and again, and again…) christians however are a very different ball of wax. Their isn’t really any overarching structure to them. After all, its almost tradition with them to split into new churches over differences in opinion. So without a hierarchy to address, and it being a muddled mass of often easily antagonized small groups, its easy to over-look their importance. Since they are almost universally deeply committed to a narrow view of God and religion, they are very easy to mobilize in mass against something they see as in conflict with their beliefs. On the flip side, swaying them from their beliefs is very difficult and usually gets them riled up even more. So its really not hard to see why they remain a political force in this country even though they aren’t all that organized to begin with. And why certain politicos really like having them on their side. Vocal, hard to sway, but not very sophisticated, you can make the motions of appeasing them without actually doing anything for them and they will follow you to the grave.

  7. RogerE nailed it re Jews and evolution.

    Gabriel, what gets me is when people tar the Roman Catholic Church as antievolution when it is not. And a good thing, too, considering that the Vice President, Speaker of the House, Chief Justice of the Supreme court and five Associate Justices, and a multitude of others in positions of political power are Catholic. I’m just shocked that acceptance is only 51%, I can only guess that it’s nervousness over the evolution = atheism canard.

    Somehow I’m reminded of the scene from O Brother, Where Art Thou? where the KKK leader rails about protecting the culture “from darkeys, from Jews, from Papists, and from all those smart-ass folks say we condescended from monkeys!”

  8. James F says: “RogerE nailed it re Jews and evolution.”

    We’ll have to see what David Klinghoffer says about it. That should be interesting.

  9. Gabriel Hanna

    We’ll have to see what David Klinghoffer says about it. That should be interesting.

    No, it won’t.

  10. I’m sure that no professional biologists ‘believes in Darwin’s theory of evolution’. It’s well over a hundred years old and we’ve moved on.
    I suppose that the only reasonable conclusion would be ‘ don’t believe a word Harris polls say, because they are run by a bunch of morons’.

  11. I like how 6% of Catholics, 8% of Protestants and 3% of born again Christians are atheists!

  12. Michael: “I like how 6% of Catholics, 8% of Protestants and 3% of born again Christians are atheists!”

    When phrased a bit differently (“absolutely certain there is no God”) the % of born again Christians who say yes increases to 6.

    It’s not really contradictory when you think (as this self-admitted cynic does) that most people join an organized religion not for it’s beliefs, either regarding “what is or was” or “what ought to be,” but rather for the rituals, and being part of a community. For the born again Christians its more the common authoritarian ideology than anything else that unites them. That ideology, like the extreme left one, hates science because science tells us what is/was, not what we want to be. By rejecting all of science (though not admitting it) they can pretend that the irreconcilable differences among them on such matters as the age of life or common descent are “unimportant.”

  13. Another note re: Catholicism and science. I hold in my hands as I type this a publication, Large-scale motions in the universe: a Vatican Study week, by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. It’s the proceedings of a cosmology conference hosted by the Vatican in 1998 and is full of stuff about cold dark matter and whatnot which I do not understand.

    Does any other major religion have its own academy of science?

  14. Gabriel Hanna: “Does any other major religion have its own academy of science?”

    Or its own professional astronomical observatory, for that matter?

  15. This was an interactive (online) poll, and it’s silly to suggest that the views of respondents reflect those of any population. I suppose that for some, it’s all good fun to poke fun at “ignorant Americans”… but these “survey” results don’t really provide ammunition. The Harris poll is a running joke among people that work in practical and theoretical sampling. See Gallup, or the NORC for a scientific survey on the same topic… you’ll find that the results are scary, but nowhere near this scary.