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Public view of creationism and evolution unchanged, says Gallup

A recent article from the Gallup News Service reports on the pollster's latest results concerning public opinion on the evidence for evolution, creationism, and biblical literalism. Because Gallup's polls on public opinion on creationism extend back to 1982, its data are particularly useful. The results are overall consistent with previous polls conducted by Gallup.

To assess public opinion on the evidence for evolution, Gallup asked, "Do you think that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific theory that has been well-supported by evidence, just one of many theories and one that has not been well-supported by evidence, or don't you know enough about it to say?" Polled in November 2004, 35% of the respondents said that evolution is well-supported by evidence, 35% said that it is not, 29% said that they didn't know enough about it to reply, and 1% expressed no opinion. These results are similar to those in 2001, the first year in which Gallup asked the question.

Demographically, the article reports, belief that evolution is well-supported by the evidence is strongest "among those with the most education, liberals, those living in the West, those who seldom attend church, and ... Catholics," and weakest among "those with the least education, older Americans ..., frequent church attendees, conservatives, Protestants, those living in the middle of the country, and Republicans."

To assess public opinion on creationism, Gallup 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?
Polled in November 2004, 38% of respondents chose (1), 13% chose (2), 45% chose (3), and 4% offered a different or no opinion. These results are also similar to those from previous Gallup polls, which extend back to 1982.

The article explains that the 10,000 year date was included in the 1982 poll question because "it roughly approximates the timeline used by biblical literalists who study the genealogy as laid out in the first books of the Old Testament." It is perhaps worth remarking that not all biblical literalists agree on interpreting the Bible as insisting on a young earth: there are old-earth creationists, for example, who accept the scientifically determined age of the earth and of the universe, but still accept a literal reading of the Bible and reject evolution.

To assess public opinion on biblical literalism, Gallup asked, "Which of the following statements comes closest to describing your views about the Bible -- the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word, the Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, or the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man?" Polled in November 2004, 34% of respondents regarded the Bible as to be taken literally, 48% regarded it as divinely inspired but not always to be taken literally, 15% regarded it as a collection of fables, etc., and 3% expressed no opinion. Again, these results are similar to those from previous Gallup polls.

(Story from the Gallup News Service)