Why Republicans Are Increasingly Creationist

Rember the recent opinion poll we wrote about a few weeks ago in Pew Research Poll on Evolution? They found that there were:

sizable differences by party affiliation in beliefs about evolution, and the gap between Republicans and Democrats has grown. In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap.

Bad news for the GOP. But what accounts for the sudden fourteen percentage point increase in Republican creationism? The poll also found that:

The share of the general public that says that humans have evolved over time is about the same as it was in 2009, when Pew Research last asked the question.

If the percentage of creationists in the American population is unchanged, what’s going on with the Republicans? There’s an article about this at the website of Moyers & Company: The Growing Partisan Divide on Evolution. They refer to someone else’s analysis and then they say, with bold font added by us:

In short, Republicans who formerly believed in evolution aren’t being won over by creationists; rather, creationists are becoming more and more likely to identify as Republicans. It’s another aspect of the growing partisan divide in our country, with personal identity and belief-systems becoming increasingly intertwined with voting habits, and with religion becoming an increasingly important part of politics.

They’re on the right track, but there’s something else involved. We’ve been giving this some thought, and we found some additional information that sheds light on the situation. This appeared at the Gallup website a couple of days ago: Record-High 42% of Americans Identify as Independents. The paragraph that struck us was this:

Americans’ increasing shift to independent status has come more at the expense of the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Republican identification peaked at 34% in 2004, the year George W. Bush won a second term in office. Since then, it has fallen nine percentage points, with most of that decline coming during Bush’s troubled second term. When he left office, Republican identification was down to 28%. It has declined or stagnated since then, improving only slightly to 29% in 2010, the year Republicans “shellacked” Democrats in the midterm elections.

Get that? Gallup finds that Republican party identification is down by nine percentage points. And the Pew poll found that there is a fourteen percentage point increase in Republican creationism. The numbers aren’t perfect, but we’re dealing with two different public opinion polls, so we’ll do the best we can.

Could it be this simple? If: (1) Creationists are staying in the Republican party, and if (2) Republicans who aren’t creationists are abandoning the party and becoming independents, then that can account for the Pew poll findings about the increasing percentage of Republican creationists. At this rate they’ll all be creationists before long, because everyone else will have bailed out.

We haven’t done a deep study of the numbers, but this is consistent with our own experience. Your humble Curmudgeon was prepared to re-register as an independent if the Republicans had nominated a creationist last time around, but instead they chose Romney. The next time they nominate a presidential candidate, with the party base more creationist than before, it’s likely that we too will join the exodus.

Anyway, no poll shows that creationism is increasing among Americans. That’s the good news. But creationists seem to be concentrated more and more in the Republican party. It’s a sad situation when one candidate’s creationism could become a big issue in a presidential election, but that seems to be where we’re headed, so whatcha gonna do?

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “Why Republicans Are Increasingly Creationist

  1. The question is what is fueling the exodus to Independent status? Could it be an intelligent aversion to religious fundamentalism that has been embraced by the Republican leadership over the past couple of decades? There are many of us who are fiscal conservatives but libertarian or secular in our other views and who cannot tolerate the intrusion of fundamentalism within the Republican party. And the rise of fundamentalism has more to do with the right to life movement than it does creationism but it’s clearly the same demographic.

  2. I was a reluctant Democrat who slowly evolved into a reluctant Republican during the 90s, and who is increasingly tempted to fully abandon both and become Independent. In fact in most presidential elections since 1980 I gave voted for an Independent. It’s only my “Medved pragmatism” that makes me hold my nose and vote D or R instead of “throwing my vote away.”

    I’m not even all that concerned with fundamentalism, and am not extreme either way in any of the complicated “hot button” social issues. But I get radical when it comes to bureaucrats, “safety nazis” and of course, anti-science activists.

    Erik Bertel: “And the rise of fundamentalism has more to do with the right to life movement than it does creationism but it’s clearly the same demographic.”

    Not exactly the same demographic, just a lot of overlap (think Venn diagrams). I estimate that ~99% of anti-evolution activists (a very small group) and ~80% of evolution-deniers-on-the-street are staunchly anti-abortion. And maybe 80% of those staunchly anti-abortion are evolution-deniers. But it depends on the degree of evolution-denial – whether one includes only the committed ones, or also those who doubt it only based on common misconceptions, and can and do change their minds when calmly corrected, or the growing “unsure either way” which is now fully 25% of adult Americans.

  3. That’s exactly right, speaking as a Nixon-voting conservative of the sort of Buckley tradition, that is, educated and liberally educated. (Remember getting a “liberal” education when liberal meant “generous?”) The strategy to use evangelical Christians as “busload voters” worked during the era of the pompous Moral Majority but it infected the Republican party with religious, or I would put it socially-religious, poison that is now killing the organization.

    Once actual numbskulls took root in state and local committees and also nationally there was no turning back. In the past decade the GOP has slid farther and farther into abyss of ignorance and bigotry, which is now called, conveniently and broadly, The Right. These people aren’t conservative in the traditional sense, rather, they are ignorant, narrow-minded, greedy, bigoted and in many cases just plain stupid. Take Louie Gohmert … please!

    Conservative means “conservation minded” but today’s conservatives are totally focused on an Us-vs-Them mentality where Us are comprised of old White Anglo-Saxon Protestants of the Bible-thumping evangelical stripe, Episcopal’s and Catholics need not apply, and Them is everybody else. If you’re an Hispanic, or Vietnamese or Black evangelical, go away.

    In 20 years this base will be gone because they will literally die out. So long as the considered intellectual leaders of the GOP are Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, the party is doomed to extinction. Where are the true intellectuals ™? I registered as an Independent over 30 years ago because I thought the GOP was crazy nominating a freaking actor, that Reagan guy, and I voted for John Anderson, however, that actor guy didn’t burn the place down so I voted for him the second time around.

  4. Ceteris Paribus

    SC says:

    Your humble Curmudgeon was prepared to re-register as an independent if the Republicans had nominated a creationist last time around, but instead they chose Romney. The next time they nominate a presidential candidate, with the party base more creationist than before, it’s likely that we too will join the exodus.

    But depending on the state, and party rules, independents can be barred from participating in closed primaries.

    Given that most existing districts have been very well gerrymandered along safe party boundaries, the only real political action is at the party primary.

    That’s why Grover Norquist can wield the outsized political power he has. Any Republican that doesn’t follow Norquist’s rules is going to be “primaried” in the next election.

    Doesn’t that same threat of being “primaried” apply to any Republican office holder who leaves even a little room for doubt about their creationist credentials?

  5. gnome de net

    OT/Late-Breaking News!

    The Nye/Ham debate will be live-streamed FREE of charge.

    http://www.charismanews.com/us/42448-creationist-vs-atheist-bill-nye-ken-ham-debate-will-stream-live

    http://debatelive.org/

  6. The Tea Partiers have been very focused on ideological purity the last couple of elections. They tossed out anyone who disagrees even slightly disagrees. That’s left a lot of rational people out in the cold. The situation is ripe for the Republicans to collapse and for a competent third party to swoop in and win an election or two.

  7. There is a lot to be said for registering as an independent.

    (1) It keeps the numbers down for both parties. If the parties have a low number of registered voters in their camp, they will perceive a need to appeal to a sizable number of independent voters, hopefully resulting in more centrist candidates.

    (2) In Texas and some other states, a registered independent can vote in either one of the party primaries. We typically vote in the republican primary, since whoever is running on that ticket will win in our heavily republican district, and cast our vote for the least crazy candidate. Some primary contests come down to just a few votes difference, especially for local offices, so it can make a difference.

    (3) You can avoid political arguments with friends and coworkers. Answering that you’re a registered independent and vote for whomever is the best qualified candidate is a great way of deflecting debaters.

  8. Stephen Kennedy

    Republicans are increasingly geographically isolated into those areas that have traditionally been fertile ground for creationists such as the South and rural areas.

    In addition, Republicans see scientists as part of liberal academia which represents everything that Republicans see as wrong with America.

  9. It’s not as simple as the stereotype. Let’s not forget that there’s still a large minority of Democrats who reject evolution, and fairly sizable majority with an unhealthy suspicion of science in general. On Nevertheless, I was reminded of this by a regular poster on The Panda’s Thumb:

    Actual election results show precious little evidence that the public wants sectarian science denial propaganda pushed in taxpayer funded public schools.

    I replied that I have been increasingly intrigued at how ~70% of adult Americans are at least partly sympathetic to the anti-evolution movement (including those who have no problem with evolution but have been fooled into thinking it’s fair to “teach both sides” in science class), yet most still listen to their conscience in the election booth. In the last 2 presidential elections the most vocal anti-science candidates (Bachmann, Perry, Santorum, Huckabee) were weeded out in the primaries (Palin got through as VP candidate in 08, but probably would have had a hard time in 12). IOW, when it counts, apparently only committed evolution-deniers (and activists of course), which are a minority, albeit an uncomfortably large one, go with the anti-evolution candidates, and the huge “swing vote” does not.

    I realize that there are other “hot” social issues unfortunately tangled with evolution, and that (even more unfortunately) the aforementioned ~70% and more are horrendously misinformed of science. Any idea what explains the “cognitive dissonance” of the “swing vote?”

  10. I think you’re right, Curmudgeon. Surely, nearly all creationists had already identified themselves as Republicans by 2009? So, the higher percentages would reflect exodus rather than influx.

    I think that, when the more crazy types who now call themselves Republicans become so ideologically pure that they separate themselves from the Repbulican party, that party will return to more identification with some traditional positions from the Eisnehower, Nixon, Reagan, etc., eras. And that a large portion of America will turn to them with a sense of refreshment and relief

    And while I’m not myself conservative, I would be really happy to see it too. A strong, rational conservative party is absolutely necessary and desperately needed.

  11. Garnetstar: “Surely, nearly all creationists had already identified themselves as Republicans by 2009?”

    I hope you’re being tongue-in-cheek, because if you read the first excerpt above, estimate that voters are half each D and R, and define “creationist” as those who disagree that “humans evolved over time” (yes I know there are many more definitions), then do a little simple arithmetic, you’ll find that 56% were Republicans in 2009, and 63% are now.

    BTW, speaking of the “ideologically pure” who might leave the R party, I listen to Michael Medved on the radio on the ride home from work, and Steve Deace on the ride in. Medved is not just an evolution-denier (strictly old earth and life, may even accept common descent) but a professional anti-evolution activist. He is desperately using his Discoveroid “big tent” strategy to keep R’s united. He criticized Ted Cruz’s role in the shutdown, but would reluctantly vote for his type to keep the party together. In stark contrast, Deace, who’s position on evolution I have no clue, but would guess Flat-Earth-YEC, is at the forefront of the “secession.” A few weeks ago he was dishing out one of the harshest criticisms of a politician I had ever heard. At first I thought he was talking about Obama. Then I caught the name of his “victim” – John McCain!

  12. Oh, sorry, I should have been more clear, I was thinking of those creationists who are also conservatives, or rather, those who are the extreme of the right wing.

    Yeah, I’ve heard some Republicans denounce John Boehner and Mitch McConnell as “progressives” (hate that word–a euphemism devised to make liberals sound more acceptable). Those sort of strict ideological requirments are going to cause these people to split off.