By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
Charles Darwin would have been 200 tomorrow, an event that Gallup is marking with a new poll showing that 39 percent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution. A quarter say they don't believe in evolution, and 36 percent say they have no opinion.
The strongest predictor of respondents' views on evolution? Church attendance.
In fact, Gallup's analysis says religiosity outweighs educational level in shaping views on evolution, even though those with the most education are far more likely to support evolution than those with the least. Just 21 percent of respondents who had up to a high school level of education believe in evolution, compared with 74 percent of those with postgraduate degrees.
But Frank Newport, Gallup's editor in chief, says religion is the determining factor:
Previous Gallup research shows that the rate of church attendance is fairly constant across educational groups, suggesting that this relationship is not owing to an underlying educational difference but instead reflects a direct influence of religious beliefs on belief in evolution.
Among weekly churchgoers, 24 percent believe in evolution, while 41 percent do not and 35 percent have no opinion. Among those who seldom or never attend church, 55 percent belief in evolution, while 11 percent do not, and 34 percent have no opinion.
Look to the question of how many Americans believe in Darwin's theory of natural selection, and the numbers shrink further. Gallup puts that number at 14 percent, while the Pew Research Center puts it at 26 percent. Both organizations put the number of Americans who favor creationism at about 43 percent, higher than the proportion than believes in evolution, according to a recent Pew report.