Friday, April 06, 2007

 

The Public Opinion Disconnect on Evolution and Creationism

A recent Newsweek poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates shows that 91 percent of American adults surveyed believe in God—and nearly half reject the theory of evolution.

Here are the survey questions and responses:

Which one of the following statements come closest to your views about the origin and development of human beings?

  • 48 percent believe God created humans pretty much in the present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.
  • 30 percent believe humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process.
  • 13 percent believe humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.
  • 9 percent don’t know or believe something else.

Do you think the scientific theory of evolution is well-supported by evidence and widely accepted within the scientific community?

  • Well-supported 48%
  • Not well-supported 39%
  • Don’t know 13%
Over the years, public opinion surveys have consistently shown a high level of support for a creationism among the American public. However, there's something about these, and other public opinion numbers on evolution, that just doesn't add up.

We've already pointed out that when voters are asked to chose between supporters of creationism and evolution in school board elections, particularly when the issue is recieves wide publicity and opposing candidates take strong stands for and against, they tend to vote creationists out of office as they did in Dover in 2005 and in Kansas last year.

And although creationists are quick to point to survey results bolstering the popularity of their position, some also tend to recognize reality and run as stealth candidates.

Compared to a number of surveys we've read, these questions seem well written. Even so, there's a remarkable discconnect reflected in the results.

How are we to explain that 48 percent of the population seemingly support young earth creationism, while just 43 percent accept some role for evolution, and yet 48 percent also say the theory of evolution is well-supported by evidence?

And, it's not just evangelical Protestants who skew the Newsweek survey results toward creationism. Amazingly, some 13 percent of self-described atheists and agnostics believe God created human beings in their present form some 6,000 years ago! Another 27 percent say he guided the process.

What does that mean? I haven't a clue.

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