Republican Acceptance of Evolution Plummets

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 30 2013 1:08 PM

Republican Acceptance of Evolution Plummets

“Dinosaurs of Eden” by Ken Ham.
“Dinosaurs of Eden” by Ken Ham.

Courtesy of Ken Ham

A poll released today by the Pew Research Center reveals that acceptance of evolution among Republicans has plummeted in recent years, from 54 percent in 2009 to a jarring 43 percent today. The poll also found that a startling 48 percent of Republicans believe that all living things today have existed in their present form since the start of time. 

Democrats and independents fared much better: 67 percent of Democrats accept evolution today (up from 64 percent in 2009), while 65 percent of independents accept it (down from 67 percent in 2013). Overall, 60 percent of Americans accept the basic fact that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” meaning 40 percent support, to varying degrees, creationism

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But there’s a twist buried in that 60 percent figure. Only half of Americans who accept evolution as fact also accept that it is “due to natural process such as natural selection.” (That means only 32 percent of Americans accept that fundamental scientific notion, better known as natural selection.) And 24 percent of Americans overall—including some who claim to accept evolution—believe that “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today” (better known as intelligent design). Taken together, this means that not even a plurality of Americans accept evolution driven by natural selection, one of the most foundational and indisputable facts of modern science. 

The more educated Americans become, however, the less likely they are to deny evolution: According to the Pew poll, acceptance of evolution correlated closely with level of education. 72 percent of college graduates acknowledge that humans have evolved over time, while only 51 percent of those with a high school degree or less accept human evolution. Young people, too, are less likely to be creationists: 68 percent of American age 18-29 accept evolution, while only 49 percent of those age 65 and up acknowledge its validity. 

The anti-evolution crowd, then, might be going to the way of the dinosaurs—but in the meantime, it looks like the Ark Park might just get enough support to break ground. 

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.

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