Evolution is still evolving in the United States

I brought up that 2012 Gallup poll on evolution that showed we’ve been in the doldrums on educating the public about the subject — poll after poll for decades has shown that only about 50% of the American public accept the science.

The latest Pew poll for 2013 has a slight surprised for us: that number has reached 60%. It’s slow, but we’re getting there.


Now the bad news (there’s always bad news). Of that 60% who accept that humans evolved, how many get it right? 24% still babble about it being guided by a god, which is wrong, but at least that’s less than half of the evolution-accepters.


And there’s mixed news. There’s a big partisan divide: Democrats have been getting slightly better, but Republicans have been getting significantly more stupid.


Of course, that probably doesn’t mean individual Republicans are getting more ignorant: it may be a sign of something much better, that the kind of rational citizens who can recognize the facts of a science are increasingly unlikely to identify as Republicans. I’m hoping it’s a sign that the Stupid Party is shrinking.

Of course, I could be wrong. It could also mean that the party is solidifying its ideology and more people are flocking to the Know-Nothing banner and they’re all rallying around their dogma. I hope that’s not the case; everything else I’ve seen says they’re busily marginalizing themselves.


  1. says

    People keep saying that the Republicans are marginalizing themselves and shrinking into a permanently minority regional party and all that jive but . . .

    They are leading in the generic congressional ballot, and most informed observers give them a good chance of taking control of the Senate in November, as well as almost certainly holding onto the House. So the ongoing concentration of stupidity, ignorance and bigotry in the Republican party does not seem to be costing them in the polls. Not to be a downer . . .

  2. says

    Not only are people evolving when it comes to views of evolution, but their views of an essential element, sexuality, are also changing. People are steering away from religious fundamentalism and from the attitudes depicted in the Bible.

    Perhaps the most consistent sexual theme in the Bible is that a woman’s consent is not needed or even preferred before sex. By demanding an end to rape culture, today’s young women and men are making the Bible writers look as if they were members of a tribal, Iron Age culture in which women were property like livestock and children—to be traded, sold and won in battle. Small wonder the culture warriors have ramped up their fight against contraception and abortion. Imagine if, on top of everything else, all women got access to expensive top-tier contraceptives and the power to end ill-conceived childbearing.

    The excerpt is from a Salon article titled 10 signs that religious fundamentalism is going down.

  3. says

    The Republican Party today commands the formal affiliation of only 24% of the adult population according to Gallup and Pew, but Gallup also does an aggregation with “leaners” that produces a GOP bloc of 42% (versus 44% for Democrats+leaners). This is mostly, I think, an effort to break US voters down into supposed conservatives versus supposed liberals, but those are bland categories that disguise the wingnut radicalism of the GOP’s extremist base and the mushiness of what passes for liberalism among the Democrats (especially from the perspective of the Sen. Warren wing of the Democratic Party). The deterioration of the status of evolution within the GOP is mostly a reflection of the success of the Republicans in transforming their organization into the Stupid Party, plus some demographic erosion, not an indication of a big cultural shift in perspectives on science.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    Never forget that the Duck Dynasty crowd exists, they vote, and they vote straight god and guns every time.

    What’s really infuriating is that the scientific advances in medicine are being used to keep these troglodytes alive longer so they can continue to poison the well for the rest of us.

  5. hiddenheart says

    Some significant chunk of the Republican shift is the ones who don’t have any clue except that whatever they think Democrats and liberals like must be opposed. Since liberals are notoriously pro-evolution, they’re anti, for no other reason than that. If woo-woo New Agers became the dominant element in the Democratic coalition and replaced all talk of evolution with crystals and spirits, Republicans would spin on a dime to champion evolution as the only true conservative stance, and within weeks would have their whole alternate history in place about how they were always pro-evolution. Truth in itself is nothing; opposing the liberals is everything.

  6. procyon says

    Never overestimate the American public. I was totally convinced that Dubya would never, in my wildest dreams, get elected for a second term.
    That said, I do believe this latest Pew poll also shows that the majority of evolution deniers come from the over 50 years old crowd and the high school or less crowd. Which may be a positive indication.

  7. richcon says

    I wouldn’t be too pessimistic about the guided-by-God bloc; chalk them up to people accepting that evolution is real but simply failing to understand the science behind it. It’s much like people who are all for the Theory of Relativity but couldn’t tell you what it actually says about the speed of light. Or people who agree that metrologists really do know their stuff and that lightning rods work, but still entertain the idea that a lightning strike burning down a building could be a sign from God.

    Both my parents have PhDs in science from respectful institutions (retired now) and would fall into the guided-by-God bloc. One’s is in physical chemistry and is pretty strongly in that camp with the acceptance that it’s a self-running process, and the other’s is in microbiology and is deist enough that he’d fall into it depending on how you phrase the question.

    It took a whole bunch of math including the abstract theory stuff, a good understanding of probability and the nature of randomness from my comp sci major, and an awesome biological anthropology professor who regularly brought fossils into class and discussed many of the negative mutations that survive due to some side benefit (like anemia, which can kill you but also makes your blood less tasty to the malaria parasite) in order for it to all suddenly click that random mutation through a reproducibility filter with a large enough population over a long enough period of time really is enough to produce everything we see in the biosphere. The equation is already balanced; there just isn’t any room left for that “God’s Will” variable.

  8. unclefrogy says

    things are changing that seems clearer my fear is that it is not fast enough.
    We saw just recently the Chinese land a rover on the Moon complete with video. What effect will that have on the conservative anti-science bias of the reactionary party?

    Much of their beliefs are already out side of reality and deep into wishful thinking and very negative toward anyone not in authority. The best we can hope is for the more radical elements speaking out loud and clear.
    It is like the saying “it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”

    uncle frogy

  9. David Marjanović says

    Never overestimate the American public. I was totally convinced that Dubya would never, in my wildest dreams, get elected for a second term.

    Bit hard to find out if that was the American public or Kenneth “Katherine” Blackwell, the governor of Ohio and head of the Dubya “re”election committee of Ohio, who after all counted the votes in his computer on his desk. The exit polls strongly favor the second hypothesis, as do the many reports of “irregularities”, the fact that Republican precincts got all the voting machines they needed and then some while Democratic ones had horribly long lines…


    Those are the scientists of measurement. :-) You mean the meteorologists.

  10. lopsided says

    Doesn’t anyone else remember Gallup’s flawed methodology which boosted Republican support by several points in their polls for the 2012 election? They turned out to be least or second least accurate pollster. I don’t think that was an isolated (series of) incident(s). They over sample the right wing crowd — their evolution numbers are likely inflated too.

  11. chrisv says

    “What’s really infuriating is that the scientific advances in medicine are being used to keep these troglodytes alive longer so they can continue to poison the well for the rest of us.”
    And many of them are participating in taxpayer funded programs such as Social Security, Medicare as well as free Larks/cellphones, mortgage interest tax deductions, etc. They benefit from science…medicine, public health, transportation, communication, entertainment but more of them believe in angels than they do evolution. Homo Sapiens? Homo saps.

  12. ezraresnick says

    We should remember that rejecting evolution is just a symptom: the underlying malady is the rejection of scientific, evidence-based reasoning. (It’s interesting that according to Pew, the partisan differences in belief in evolution were not wholly explained by differences in the religious composition of Republicans and Democrats.) The only long-term solution is to confront and defeat the enemies of reason — by unequivocally insisting on the value of intellectual honesty and reality-based thinking, and by showing no tolerance or respect for bad ideas. Success on that front will not only undermine disbelief in evolution; other irrational ideas will inevitably erode as well.

    I’ve written more about this here.

  13. grumpyoldfart says

    It doesn’t matter which bits of reality they choose to accept, 80% of the population will still say that god is running the show.

  14. What a Maroon, el papa ateo says


    Those are the scientists of measurement.

    Or cities.

    ruth in itself is nothing; opposing the liberals is everything.

    Hmm, so liberals should publicly support a ban on abortions, prohibiting gay marriage, denial of global warming, ending the welfare state….

    Ugh, I don’t think I could ever be that cynical.

  15. JohnnieCanuck says

    Sili & chigau

    The charting software (Excel?) probably assigned the colours based on the order of the columns the data sets were entered into. Looking at the different styles used for the legends, it might have been two different people creating the graphs. Also, any editors or reviewers missed it.

    tl;dr? Carelessness.