October 2021 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

Acceptance of evolution in the United States has cracked 50%, a new study indicates.

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE), an ally of Americans United, worked with researchers to examine the public acceptance of evolution by examining public-opinion surveys over a 35-year period. The findings were issued in late August.

“From 1985 to 2010, there was a statistical dead heat between acceptance and rejection of evolution,” said Jon D. Miller of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, who served as lead researcher for the study. “But acceptance then surged, becoming the majority position in 2016.”

The researchers found that higher education plays a decisive role in the acceptance of evolution.

“The more education you have, the more likely you are to accept evolution,” said study co-author Glenn Branch, deputy director of NCSE. “The proportion of Americans with a college degree almost doubled between 1988 and 2018.”

The researchers analyzed several surveys about public attitudes toward evolution since 1985. In these surveys, U.S. adults were asked to agree or disagree with this statement: “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”

NCSE’s Branch reported, “The series of surveys showed that Americans were evenly divided on the question of evolution from 1985 to 2007. According to a 2005 study of the acceptance of evolution in 34 developed nations, led by Miller, only Turkey, at 27%, scored lower than the United States. But over the last decade, until 2019, the percentage of American adults who agreed with this statement increased from 40% to 54%.”

Added Branch, “The current study consistently identified religious fundamentalism as the strongest factor leading to the rejection of evolution. While their numbers declined slightly in the last decade, approximately 30 percent of Americans continue to be religious fundamentalists as defined in the study. But even those who scored highest on the scale of religious fundamentalism shifted toward acceptance of evolution, rising from 8% in 1988 to 32% in 2019.”

Americans’ political beliefs also play a role. NCSE reported that as of 2019, 34% of conservative Republicans accepted evolution compared to 83% of liberal Democrats.