2014 Gallup Poll on Evolution

We’ve posted about several different polls on creationism, but the most influential is probably the poll by the Gallup Organization. The last time we reported on one of their polls was the 2012 Gallup Poll on Evolution. They poll the same questions every two years, and now they have the results of their latest survey.

At the Gallup website their article is titled: In U.S., 42% Believe Creationist View of Human Origins. That figure sounds horrendous, and of course it is, but in historical context, it’s been worse. In their first such poll, back in 1982, that figure was 44%, and it’s been fluctuating in all the later polls. It was as high as 47% in 2000, and as low as 40% in 2010. It shot back up to 46% in 2012, and now it’s down to 42%.

As before, these are the precise questions they asked:

Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?

1. Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process.

2. Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.

3. God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.

As we mentioned at the time of their last poll, the first two questions both involve millions of years, either with or without God’s guidance. But the “God guided this process” question doesn’t really describe what we know as old-Earth creationism, because it says that humans evolved. It sounds more like what we call theistic evolution. Those who are both old-Earthers and creationists don’t have a clear option in this poll. The third question asks about hard-core young-Earth creationism, and there’s no ambiguity about that one.

The article presents a chart showing the results for those same three questions for every poll since 1982. The percentage who selected the straight scientific option of old-Earth evolution with no divine involvement has been steadily rising (with minor bounces) from only 9% back in 1982, where it stayed (with a few jiggles) through 2000, but it’s up to 19% in the latest poll. That’s a new high. Before that, it got as high as 16% in 2010, dropping to 15% in 2012. Now, as we said, it’s 19%. There must be wailing and moaning in certain creationist organizations. That ol’ devil is making progress!

Gallup summarizes the situation like this, with our bold font:

The percentage of the U.S. population choosing the creationist perspective as closest to their own view has fluctuated in a narrow range between 40% and 47% since the question’s inception. There is little indication of a sustained downward trend in the proportion of the U.S. population who hold a creationist view of human origins. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who adhere to a strict secularist viewpoint — that humans evolved over time, with God having no part in this process — has doubled since 1999.

Then they break the results down according to religion, age, and education. Regarding religion, you won’t be surprised to learn:

The percentage of Americans who accept the creationist viewpoint ranges from 69% among those who attend religious services weekly to 23% among those who seldom or never attend.

There’s no surprise regarding education either. Gallup says:

Educational attainment is also related to these attitudes, with belief in the creationist perspective dropping from 57% among Americans with no more than a high school education to less than half that (27%) among those with a college degree.

As for age, once again, the results are probably what you expected:

Younger Americans — who are typically less religious than their elders — are less likely to choose the creationist perspective than are older Americans. Americans aged 65 and older — the most religious of any age group — are most likely to choose the creationist perspective.

There’s a chart with the article that has specifics for all of those factors. The hard-core young-Earth creationist option was chosen by only 28% of those whose age was 18 to 29 (which is still embarrassingly high), and by only 27% of college graduates (that’s a scary number), and by only 23% of those who seldom or never attend church.

Unlike the 2012 poll, this article doesn’t provide a breakdown of results by political party. That may be in their more detailed data, but we haven’t looked at that.

So there you are. It’s not a pretty picture. It’s not quite so bad among the young and the educated, but for the uneducated old droolers, it’s crocoducks all the way down.

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

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10 responses to “2014 Gallup Poll on Evolution

  1. 4. Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life without the need for any reference to supernatural explanations.

    My vote.

  2. “Those who are both old-Earthers and creationists don’t have a clear option in this poll.”

    Nor does an agnostic — there is just no way to know whether God (by any name) had a hand in the process. It’s a flawed poll, not only because there is no choice for OEC, but also because it requires a God/no god black or white choice. A better option for number two would be:

    “2. Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life by natural selection.”

    Of course, if Gallup changes the response choices now there would be no way to make trend comparisons with the previous surveys. However, the percentages would be more meaningful.

  3. There are always some problems with the wording of the poll questions. But I guess that most of the respondents don’t take much time in choosing their answer – which is often what they think that they ought to answer, or what what most people would say, or what makes them seem like a better person. I’d bet that there are fewer people who go to church weekly than say that they do.

  4. The wording of the poll question is very awkward. “God” is referred to as some kind of known entity, the existence of which is apparently as uncontroversial as that of the “human beings” also mentioned. Which god? Are we talking about the Biblical deity here, or will any concept of a higher being or purposing power do?

    Even alternative 2 seems to presuppose that this vaguely-defined deity is unquestionably “there”; he just didn’t involve himself directly in human evolution (a form of deism?)

    The question of “God’s” involvement or non-involvement is scientifically meaningless. Imagine asking people to choose between these alternatives:

    1) “I met my future spouse by without any prior arrangement, but this was all in accordance with the subtle workings of Fate.”
    2) “I met my future spouse without any prior arrangement, and Fate had nothing to do with it.”

    This distinction is about as meaningful as alternatives 1 and 2 of this poll.

  5. This article may provide some comfort:

    http://ncse.com/blog/2013/11/just-how-many-young-earth-creationists-are-there-us-0015164

    In short, once you ask the question in a way that has no overt religious implications, the acceptance of evolution is significantly greater.

    They conclude like this:

    “[T]he hard core of young-earth creationists represents at most one in ten Americans—maybe about 31 million people—with another quarter favoring creationism but not necessarily committed to a young earth. One or two in ten seem firmly committed to evolution, and another third leans heavily toward evolution. About a third of the public in the middle are open to evolution, but feel strongly that a god or gods must have been involved somehow, and wind up in different camps depending how a given poll is worded.”

  6. @hnohf
    I like to compare and contrast evolution with reproduction.
    Am I a creature of God, or it is it only Homo sapiens that was the result of God’s special attention?
    Is the history of my ancestry a matter of a combination of chance and biology, or was there divine intervention?

  7. lanceleuven

    Hmm…initially depressing, but things look a little brighter after the unpacking. At least the old-earth evolution side is gaining, even if the creationist side is stubbornly refusing to move.

  8. On the topic of this poll, Denyse O’Leary wrote a post at UD and tweeted, “How come humans’ opinions about our origin doesn’t matter?”

    Take that, you eggheads with your test tubes and rock hammers! All your genomic sequences and transitional fossils are just your opinion!

  9. woodengolfer

    Stringing this together with a recent post. It would be nice to think that the Cosmos series would have an impact on these polls. To bad the people who watch science shows are generally not the ones who need to.

  10. Maybe we don’t have to be *too* worried about the percentage of college grads who are committed to YEC/ID. Remember that the US is home to such illustrious citadels of “higher” learning as Bob Jones University, among others.