December 30, 2013

New Survey Analysis Looks at Americans’ Views on Human Evolution

Washington, D.C., Dec. 30, 2013 — Six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time,” according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. The share of the general public saying that humans have evolved over time is about the same as in 2009, when Pew Research last asked the question.

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About half of those who express a belief in human evolution take the view that evolution is “due to natural processes such as natural selection” (32% of the American public overall). But many Americans believe that God or a supreme being played a role in the process of evolution. Indeed, roughly a quarter of adults (24%) say 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.”

Among other key findings:

  • Beliefs about evolution differ strongly by religious group. White evangelical Protestants are particularly likely to believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Roughly two-thirds (64%) express this view, as do half of black Protestants (50%). By comparison, only 15% of white mainline Protestants share this opinion.
  • There are sizable differences by party affiliation in beliefs about evolution, and the gap between Republicans and Democrats has grown. In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap.
  • Beliefs about evolution tend to vary by gender, age and education. Men are somewhat more inclined than women to say that humans and other living things have evolved over time. Younger adults are more likely than older Americans to express a belief in evolution. And those with more years of formal schooling are more likely than those with less education to say that humans have evolved.

The nationwide Pew Research Center survey was conducted March 21-April 8, 2013, with a representative sample of 1,983 adults, ages 18 and older. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.0 percentage points.

The full analysis, “Public’s Views on Human Evolution,” is available on the Religion & Public Life Project’s website.

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Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does not take policy positions. Its Religion & Public Life Project seeks to promote a deeper understanding of issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs. 

Twitter: @PewReligion