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A new Pew poll on evolution

Pew Research Center

Six in ten Americans accept human evolution, while a third hold that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. Asked, "Which comes closer to your view?" and presented with "Humans and other living things have evolved over time" and "Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time," 60% of respondents accepted the evolution option, 33% the creationist option, and 7% said that they didn't know or refused to answer. In 2009, 61% of respondents accepted the evolution option, 31% the creationist option, and 8% said that they didn't know or refused to answer.

Those who agreed that humans have evolved over time were asked whether they thought "[h]umans and other living things have evolved due to natural processes such as natural selection" or "[a] supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today"; 53% preferred natural processes, 40% preferred guidance by a supreme being, and 7% said that they didn't know or refused to answer. Thus 32% of all the respondents chose evolution through natural processes, 24% chose guided evolution, and 33% chose creationism. In 2009, 32% chose evolution through natural processes, 22% chose guided evolution, and 31% chose creationism.

The survey also asked a different group about evolution in such a way as not to highlight human evolution, with the word "animals" substituted for "humans." There was little difference: 63% of respondents accepted the evolution option, 32% the creationist option, and 5% said that they didn't know or refused to answer. Those who agreed that animals have evolved over time were asked whether they thought it was due to natural selection or guidance by a supreme being: 56% preferred natural processes, 38% preferred guidance by a supreme being, and 8% said that they didn't know or refused to answer. Thus 35% of all the respondents chose evolution through natural processes, 24% chose guided evolution, and 32% chose creationism.

The Pew Research Center's report commented, "These beliefs differ strongly by religious group. White evangelical Protestants are particularly likely to believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Roughly two-thirds (64%) express this view, as do half of black Protestants (50%). By comparison, only 15% of white mainline Protestants share this opinion. There also are sizable differences by party affiliation in beliefs about evolution, and the gap between Republicans and Democrats has grown. In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap."

Except for the questions about animal evolution, the report was "based on telephone interviews conducted March 21-April 8, 2013, among a national sample of 1,983 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (1,017 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 966 were interviewed on a cellphone). Interviews were completed in English and Spanish by live, professionally trained interviewing staff under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The margin of error at the 95% level of confidence for the entire sample was +/- 3%. The questions about animal evolution were asked of a group of 2,023 respondents, and the margin of error for that group is +/- 2.9%.