Pew published the results of a new study this morning that is getting a lot of attention on the web:
Six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time,” according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. The share of the general public saying that humans have evolved over time is about the same as in 2009, when Pew Research last asked the question.
There’s a good deal of hand wringing over the 33% who reject evolution, but I’m actually kind of happy with the 60% who accept it. Sure, I wish that 33% were lower, but I also try to be a realist on these things, and in that light, 33% isn’t that bad.
To illustrate where I’m coming from, I’d like to call your attention to another poll that hasn’t received nearly as much attention. Harris Interactive conducts polls online, with appropriate weighting to counteract any skewing in the online population.
People are much more likely to admit to not believing in something that it is popular to believe (like God), or believing in something that isn’t popular to believe (like witches), if they can admit it anonymously online instead of to another human, even if that other human is an anonymous operator on the phone.
Harris conducts a poll every few years on people’s beliefs. Reading the report is both heartening and sobering. When you see some of the things a substantial minority of Americans believe in, you’ll see why I’m not particularly alarmed by the Pew results.
- 29% reject evolution, another 25% aren’t sure
- 42% believe in ghosts
- 36% believe in creationism (which roughly matches the evolution number above)
- 36% believe in UFOs
- 29% believe in astrology
- 26% believe in witches
The full report is here.
I certainly wish these numbers were lower, but I suspect that 26-36% represents a floor for these kinds of beliefs. With that in mind, Pew’s 33% number fits right in.
If you fear that the US is uniquely blighted in this regard, check out this Gallup poll on paranormal beliefs by country.
- Poll: Republican Belief In Evolution Has Plummeted In Recent Years (talkingpointsmemo.com)
- Pew Research Poll on Evolution (sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com)
- Poll: Solid Majority Of Americans Believe In Evolution (newageoftruth.wordpress.com)
- Fewer Republicans believe in evolution (msnbc.com)
- Public’s Views on Human Evolution (secularnewsdaily.com)
- Republicans’ belief in evolution plummets, poll reveals (cbsnews.com)
- Public’s Views on Human Evolution (richarddawkins.net)
- One-third of Americans reject evolution, poll shows (news.yahoo.com)
- Public’s Views on Human Evolution | Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project (pewforum.org)