Analysis of the results of recent Pew Research Center surveys conducted between 2009 and 2014 show that approximately 65% of U.S. adults agree that humans and other living things evolved over time, with 31% favoring the view that all living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of life. About 4% stated they did not know, or have a view.
And “roughly half of those who say that humans have evolved over time,” reported the study, “believe that evolution has occurred from natural processes, such as natural selection (35% of all adults), while a somewhat smaller share (24% of all adults) believe a supreme being guided the evolution of humans and other living things.”* The study reports that about 5% of adults are unsure.
Not surprisingly, the analysis showed religious affiliation and the degree of religious activity (frequency of church attendance) as high correlation factors in these views. Among the most striking findings, for example, is the statistic that shows that a small group of Christians, composed mostly of Mormons, “have a high predicted probability of saying that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning (+0.69).”*
But these findings are only a small part of the overall scope and results of the Pew study. Much more than issues related to human evolution, it highlights a wide mix of factors tied to public attitudes across a broad set of 22 science issues. It illustrates the strength of connection between political affiliation and opinion, and it shows issues for which other factors – such as educational attainment, knowledge about science, religious affiliation or demographic characteristics – are strongly tied to the public’s views. Prominent among the study’s findings are the numbers that indicate that public attitudes about climate change and energy policy are strongly intertwined with political party affiliation and ideology; and that politics play a more modest, or even peripheral, role on public views about other key issues related to biomedical science, food safety and space.
The analysis in the report relied primarily on data from the Pew Research Center survey of the general public, using a probability-based sample of the adult population by landline and cellular telephone Aug. 15-25, 2014, with a representative sample of 2,002 adults nationwide. The survey, along with a companion survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), was conducted by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the AAAS.
Parts of this article were adapted and edited from a Pew Research Center press release, The public’s political views are strongly linked to attitudes on environmental issues, July 1, 2015.
*Pew Research Center, July 1, 2015, “Americans, Politics and Science Issues.”
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