Pew Survey Finds Nine Point Drop In Republicans Who Believe in Evolution Compared To 2009

Pew Research Center has released a study on public attitudes on evolution versus creationism.   In contrast to a Harris poll released last week, Pew does not find an increase in the number who believe in evolution but shows a significantly higher percentage of people who do:

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, 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.” 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.

The Harris poll, which was an online poll compared to Pew survey based upon telephone interviews, found that “Forty-seven percent say they believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution, compared to 42 percent in 2005.”

As expected, both polls showed the same partisan breakdown:

There are sizable differences among partisan groups in beliefs about evolution. Republicans are less inclined than either Democrats or political independents to say that humans have evolved over time. Roughly two-thirds of Democrats (67%) and independents (65%) say that humans have evolved over time, compared with less than half of Republicans (43%).

The size of the gap between partisan groups has grown since 2009. Republicans are less inclined today than they were in 2009 to say that humans have evolved over time (43% today vs. 54% in 2009), while opinion among both Democrats and independents has remained about the same.

This is consistent with the increased polarization between the two parties. Belief in creationism corresponds with Republican attitudes of hostility towards science along with the tendency of Republicans to accept an entire world view which is divorced from reality. Often belief in creationism can be seen as a marker that someone has been taken in by the right-wing narrative and accepts the many other falsehoods they spread.

There are other demographic differences, such as the young and more educated being more likely to believe in evolution. Taking additional factors into account did not explain the partisan differences. If is far more likely that this is a sign of the basic differences between the two parties, even if I remain disappointed that a sizable number of Democrats also believe in creationism. This is partially due to the Democrats being more of a big tent party which might be good from the perspective of long-term political potential, but which also shows that there are limitations to the Democratic Party’s ability to be a force for liberal change. While I would like to see Democratic candidates more forcefully defend separation of church and state and be able to use disbelief in evolution as an argument against Republicans, the overall degree of both social conservatism and scientific ignorance in this country makes this unlikely to happen in the near future. As the next generation ages and gets out to vote, this could change.


  1. 1
    Brandt Hardin says:

    Here in TN, they have taken steps though new legislation to allow creationism back into the classroom.  This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

  2. 2
    CCB says:

    Could we stop using the ‘belief’ when discussing science?  You ‘believe’ (or not) in Santa Claus, or virgin birth, or the Easter bunny.
    Let’s discuss science topics — evolution, climate change — in terms of science.  If you think the theory of evolution has flaws, describe them — is it an insufficient data set?  An incorrect analysis of the data?   Errors in the chemical analysis?
    Your relationship with the Flying Spaghetti Monster is conditioned entirely on your ‘belief’ in the FSM.
    Science is utterly indifferent to whether you ‘believe’ in science or not.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Don’t obsess over a word–look at the entire post. This is about a poll over people’s opinions–what they believe in. That does not mean that all beliefs are equally valid or whether one believes in a scientific fact has any bearing as to whether it is true.

  4. 4
    CCB says:

    Ron, I understand that the post is a comment on a poll.  We don’t have to use the poll’s language (” believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution”) to discuss the poll, however.
    More generally, I would like to see the reality-based community continually reinforce the distinctions between science and not-science by correctly labeling things.  If we insist that the discussion of science is conducted in scientific terms, not terms of faith and belief, the anti-modernity crowd will have to admit that either they aren’t familiar enough with the science (or the scientific method), or they just don’t like the implications and conclusions, and would prefer to wish them away.
    Instead of asking, “Do you believe in evolution?”, one could ask, “Do you agree with the current science regarding evolution (or climate change, or ocean acidification, etc.)?  If not, what specific problems in the science have you found?”
    This, of course, is true:  “That does not mean that all beliefs are equally valid or whether one believes in a scientific fact has any bearing as to whether it is true.”
    However, using phrases like “belief in evolution” helps put a bible-based cosmology (“belief in creationism”) on  an equal footing with science, and that is what needs to change.
    I completely agree with you w/r/t Democrats forcefully defending the separation of church and state; accurately discussing science vs. not-science is one way we can contribute to the effort.

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    Ron Chusid says:

    Again, the full content is more important than dwelling over a word. If we were purely talking about whether people believe in evolution versus creationism, I would agree with you. However once the discussion makes clear that those who do no accept science are wrong, the word is no longer important.

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