Fox News Evolution Poll

There’s not much we can do with this news story except give it to you straight. At the Fox News website we read Most Believe Prayer Heals, 45 Percent Believe in Creationism. Here we go, with bold font added by us:

Nearly half of American voters believe in the Biblical account of creation, and even more think prayer can literally help people recover from medical problems.

The evolution question they asked was: “Which do you think is more likely to actually be the explanation for the origin of human life on Earth?” The options offered were: (a) The theory of evolution as outlined by Darwin and other scientists; (b) The Biblical account of creation as told in the Bible, (c) Both are true; and (d) Don’t know.

We think the question and the responses they offered are fairly put. They give this link to the full poll results. These are the results, compared to the results of a similar poll taken in 1999:

(a) Evolution: 21%. In 1999 that one got only 15%.
(b) Creationism: 45%. That’s depressing, but in 1999 it was 50%
(c) Both: 27%. About the same as in 1999 when it was 26%.
(d) Don’t know: 7%. In 1999 that one got 9%.

Then the results are broken down by political party, education, race, gender, and income. The way they present that data is confusing to us, but it’s clear that more Dems than GOP accept evolution (28% vs. 13%). No surprise there.

They also ask about faith that prayer can heal illness. They say: “77 percent of voters believe prayers can help someone heal from an injury or illness.”

Back to evolution, the article then gives a bit of summary, as follows:

Some 45 percent of voters accept the Biblical account of creation as the explanation for the origin of human life on Earth, while 21 percent say the theory of evolution as outlined by Darwin and other scientists is correct. Another 27 percent say both explanations are true.

Don’t be too depressed. If you add the evolution percentage and the percentage who believe both, you get 48%, which is greater than the 45% who are whole-hog for only creationism.

Here’s one more excerpt, and then we’ll leave you to ponder the results:

Among white evangelical Christians, 67 percent believe in creationism, 4 percent evolution, and 24 percent accept both.

Maybe Harold Camping is right — the world is coming to an end.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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21 responses to “Fox News Evolution Poll

  1. RetiredSciGuy

    I didn’t have a chance to read the full article, but did Fox say how the survey sample was selected? If the respondents were primarily Fox News watchers, I can understand the results.

    About prayer helping to heal — if the person doing the praying is the person who is ill, there could be a strong psychological effect — if they truly believe in the power of prayer.

  2. What were people thinking who answered that both evolution and creationism are true? My guess is that they might be the mainstream protestant types who believe in some sort of theistic evolution.

    It’s good news that the numbers are moving in the right direction. And SC has a good point that more people are cool with some form of evolution than are against it completely.

    I also noticed that there was no “intelligent design” option. Ha. I’m sure the DI folks were disappointed.

  3. From the article: “Nearly half of American voters believe in the Biblical account of creation,..”

    I may have more comments later, but when are people going to get it into their thick skulls that there is no “the” Biblical account of creation? Whether it’s the YEC/OEC/Geocentrist thing, the Genesis I / Genesis II, etc., there’s a hopeless mess of mutually-contradictory interpretations all claimed to be “literal.” Force the scam artists to teach that controversy before they whine about “Darwinism.”

  4. Seems to me that the question is problematic since the evolution of species and the origin of life are addressed by two different scientific frameworks (evolution and abiogenesis). Creationism attempts to explain both I guess. I suspect that there are many people who would accept evolution while still remaining skeptical about abiogenesis perhaps even preferring a religious explanation for creation.

  5. Looking at the breakdown with respect to age, the youngest cohort shows the lowest acceptance of reality, which is profoundly depressing and tends to disagree with the view that things are getting better. The best results come from those educated in the 1950s and 60s, after which US education seems to have slid down the toilet.

  6. cnocspeireag says: “the youngest cohort shows the lowest acceptance of reality, ”

    All the other polls I’ve seen show the opposite.

  7. Gary (the first one)

    Hey, we seem to have another Gary!

  8. Gary (the first one) says: “Hey, we seem to have another Gary!”

    True, that was his first comment here. I have no control over such things, so you two will have to work it out.

  9. The problem I have with such polls is the way the questions are phrased and the lack of knowledge in both the pollsters and the polled.

    Depending on how the questions are interpreted someone like Behe could fit in the “both” category, since he accepts about 99% of evolutionary theory — though the percentage seems to go down with each book.

    People subscribing to theistic evolution could fit in either the “both” category or the “evolution only” category.

    The poll takers and most of those polled are ignorant of the differences between YEC, OEC, Behe style ID, and theistic evolution.

    The 48% combined total is encouraging. However the 45% number probably fairly accurately represents the portion of the population that is hostile to evolution — the anti-evolution segment of the population. While a non-trivial percentage of it votes Democrat they are in the minority on the Left and they are not as aggressively and militantly anti-evolution as those on the Right.

    The prayer numbers are not surprising. The religious tend to believe in miracles and that their God may answer their prayers with a miracle. Those numbers track with polling for religious beliefs and affiliation.

  10. I have no control over such things, so you two will have to work it out.

    Okay, unless he has an issue with it, the other Gary will be “New Gary” and I’ll be “Old Gary”.

  11. Radar (formally Gary, but the new one, not the old one)

    Well, I didn’t mean to step on Gary’s toes. I’m happy to go by my nickname instead.

  12. The Independents breakdown is the most interesting.

    While 55% of Rs and 42% of Ds are in the “Biblical only” category, only 31% of Independents answered that way.

    Also, the combined “both” and “evolution only” total for Independents was 56%. It was 52% for Democrats.

    The poll indicates that Independents are more accepting of evolution than either Rs or Ds.

  13. Gary (the old one)

    Well, I didn’t mean to step on Gary’s toes.

    Nope, no stepping was involved. Just wanted to prevent confusion. We need more Gary’s around here. It’s funny that your nickname is “Radar”. Mine is “Sparky”.

  14. Jack Hogan: “The poll takers and most of those polled are ignorant of the differences between YEC, OEC, Behe style ID, and theistic evolution…While 55% of Rs and 42% of Ds are in the “Biblical only” category, only 31% of Independents answered that way.”

    The proper forum is not science class, and maybe not any public school class, but somewhere, somehow, the public needs to learn much more, not just about evolution and the nature of science, but also about the countless scams that promote science-denial, and exploit and reinforce misconceptions. To put it bluntly, people need to learn about “creationism,” how it has failed as science, how it is retreating into “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and how its peddlers make a mockery of “thou shalt not bear false witness.” IMO, even most scientists are not as informed as they ought to be. But they are on average far more informed than nonscientists, which is why even Republican scientists are far more likely to accept evolution that Democrat nonscientists. Same goes for devoutly religious scientists vs. non-devout nonscientists. How many people-on-the-street know that, let alone why?

  15. Frank J wondered about which Biblical account of creation that people had in mind.
    I suggest that a large proportion of those who accept the Biblical account of anything could not say what they think the Biblical account is. It is a matter of saying that they believe in the Bible, because that is what one is supposed to say when a stranger asks.
    I’d bet that more would say that Adam and Eve ate an apple (which the Bible does not say, of course) than would say that the Sun was placed in the firmament on day four (which the Bible does say).

  16. Tomato Addict

    @Frank J

    In other words, more people ought to study Philosophy. I agree.

  17. TomS: “I suggest that a large proportion of those who accept the Biblical account of anything could not say what they think the Biblical account is. It is a matter of saying that they believe in the Bible, because that is what one is supposed to say when a stranger asks.”

    Interesting! After reading this I realized that this has been my experience, too. They rarely know just WHAT the Bible says, about almost anything. They only know that they’re SUPPOSED to believe what it says.

    Guess that means I have to read more of the Bible so I can quiz them about it. THAT sucks!

  18. Radar and Sparky: This might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

  19. Jack Hogan: The problem I have with such polls is the way the questions are phrased and the lack of knowledge in both the pollsters and the polled.

    I don’t think there is a best phrasing; any way you ask the question, you’re introducing some bias one way or the other. On the positive side, Fox’s results seem to be in general alignment with many other surveys (examples: Gallup and PEW) that ask similar questions using different words. Just based on consistency with other (more impartial) survey results, I’d provisionally conclude Fox’s methodology was probably reasonable and the pollsters probably knew what they were doing. As to your third complaint – lack of knowledge among the polled – well, that is what folks are trying to measure, not the measuring stick, eh?

  20. This is the poll that I find most revealing:

    Two questions indicate that, when given a few seconds to actually think about it, only ~20% are “hard” YECs:

    1. The earth is less than 10 000 years old. True: 18%
    2. Layers of rock containing fossils cover the earth’s surface and date back hundreds of millions of years. True: 78%.

    Add to that that most people do not think in terms of “what the evidence supports,” but what they believe whether or not evidence supports it. In fact I knew someone who believed YEC stories but admitted that the evidence does not support it. The % that actually thinks that independent evidence supports the YEC interpretation may be in the single digits.

    Generally, when people are shown evidence and have their misconceptions corrected, they concede at least Old Earth and Life. I don’t think that’s all good news, though, because many prefer the more politically correct “don’t ask, don’t tell what happened when” approach. Especially since far too many of us let them get away with it.

  21. Thorne complains: “Guess that means I have to read more of the Bible so I can quiz them about it. THAT sucks!”

    I sympathize. The books of Job and Jeremiah are two of the most wretched literary works I’ve ever read. The writings of “Paul” (not all written by the same author) are just as bad. The droning accounts in Chronicles are not so offensive, just soporific.

    However, Genesis includes some stories that are interesting, especially when read alongside other tribal creation-and-early-history myths. Song of Solomon is a fine musical drama script–too bad the music is lost. Esther and Ruth are well-structured, well-told narratives. Ecclesiastes, the earliest example I know of a personal essay, is one of my favorites. Many of the sayings attributed to Jesus are laudable.

    I look back fondly on my months of heavy Bible study at religious college because the experience turned me into a thorough skeptic. Sounds as if you don’t need such study to turn you into a skeptic. It might make you a better one, though. I recommend you grit your teeth and go for it.