Survey: The number of Republicans who believe in human evolution has declined
A visitor looks at an exhibit comparing Neanderthals to Homo sapiens, part of the 'Evolving Planet' exhibit at the Field Museum March 7, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois.
December 30th, 2013
03:27 PM ET
10 months ago

Survey: The number of Republicans who believe in human evolution has declined

Washington (CNN) – A growing partisan divide is emerging between Republicans and Democrats on human evolution, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center.

Forty-eight percent of self-identified Republicans told Pew in a study released Monday that they believe humans "existed in their present form since the beginning of time." On the contrary, 43% of Republicans said the opposite, that they believed humans "have evolved over time."

That is a sizable shift from 2009, the last time Pew asked the question. In that survey, a majority of Republicans – 54% – told Pew they believed in human evolution.

The percentage of Democrats who believe in human evolution, on the other hand, grew in the last four years. Two-thirds (67%) said they believe in human evolution, compared to 27% who said they didn't.

In 2009, the number of Democrats who said humans evolved over time was 64%.

"I didn't expect to see that kind of shift," said Cary Funk, the senior researcher at Pew who oversaw the study. "I think it basically fits with a pattern of growing polarization. And we see that on some other science issues."

Despite the fact that most scientists agree that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, the universe is 13.7 billion years old and that humans have evolved over time, not everyone agrees. According to the Pew poll, 60% of Americans believe humans have evolved over time, compared to 33% who said they have not – a number that has remained constant since 2009.

The latter belief is particularly strong among white evangelical Protestants, many of whom read the Biblical creation account in Genesis literally: The six days in the account are strictly 24-hour periods and leave no room for evolution. Sixty-four percent of white evangelical protestants and 50% of black protestants believe humans have not evolved, according to the poll.

The idea of creationism has been scorned by the mainstream scientific community since shortly after Charles Darwin introduced "The Origin of Species" in 1859. By 1880, The American Naturalists, a science journal, reported nearly every major university in America was teaching evolution.

For Funk, the Republican shift was surprising and led the researchers to check the numbers by controlling the data against racial and ethnic divides between the two parties. Even still, Funk said, the divide on human evolution between Democrats and Republican, as well as the changes in Republican beliefs, persisted.

"Differences in the racial and ethnic composition of Democrats and Republicans or differences in their levels of religious commitment do not wholly explain partisan differences in beliefs about evolution," read the Pew report. "Indeed, the partisan differences remain even when taking these other characteristics into account."

The Pew report is based on telephone interview conducted between March 21 – April 8, 2013 with a sample size of 1,983 adults. The survey has a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.


Filed under: Polls • Republicans
soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. plain and simple

    So people are leaving the republican party and identifying themselves as something other......can you blame them!!!

    December 30, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  2. alaskan1st

    Look, it's the same ones that don't believe in science. What a surprise.

    December 30, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  3. avlisk

    Great, we have the ignorant masses on one side of the aisle, and the hypocritical lying masses on the other side of the aisle. And they are still voting. No wonder we are doomed as a nation.

    December 30, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  4. OldMrGrumpy

    It's remarkable how Christian apologists try to spin the Genesis creation account in the Babble to in an attempt to make is square with what we now know to be true. But isn't it funny that it's always after the fact? Now we have apologists saying with a straight face "Let there be light = the Big Bang"!? How convenient. If the Babble is truly the word of god, and not a shameless man-made fabrication passed off as "real", then why is there no knowledge in it that an Iron Age Middle-Eastern man would not or could not have known at the time?

    December 30, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  5. Silence DoGood

    “ Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.“ – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

    December 30, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  6. Dumbas[R]ocks

    Dear Curly and the rest of you Tea-tards,

    I do not blame you for not beliveing in evolution. Afterall, there is very little indication that you and yours partook in it.

    December 30, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  7. Rick McDaniel

    The answer to the question, should be easy to understand. At the Biltmore Estate, in NC, all you need do, is examine the length of the beds, and the sizes of the clothing used, in the early 1900's, and compare that to the current equivalents.

    You will see, quite readily, I might say, that huamns have absolutely been evolving, just over that period of time, in terms of physical size. Overall, people have gotten taller, and larger, just in the last 100 yrs.

    Why there is even any discussion, when the answer is so obvious, is beyond me.

    December 30, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  8. tom l

    So I believe in evolution but I do have to ask this: one second before the big bang, what was there? Plus, what made the big bang happen? If there was nothing there a second before then how did it happen? You can't answer that question.

    December 30, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  9. Randy, San Francisco

    There must be a correlation between the decline in science and math scores of American students and the 48% of Republicans who do not believe in evolution.

    December 30, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  10. Boomer in Mo

    That's because the GOP is evolving backwards

    December 30, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  11. JustSayin...

    So, don't go ballistic on me folks. Just hear me out. When I ask most folks to explain why they believe in evolution, they say, "Duh, it's obvious, isn't it?" So, I ask again to explain how they came to their position on the subject... almost 100% are dumber than a stump on the issue (and I work in academia). They believe it very strongly, but they really have no idea why. They associate it with 'smart people' and they want to be seen as being in line with 'smart people'. Indeed, the smartest folks that I know in the areas of physiology and science and engineering are the ones that are less willing to dismiss the idea of a Creator. Perhaps not the '7-day' model, but they see evidence that is better explained by 'someone or something at the helm'. The recent discoveries regarding the 'hidden code' (second, underlying code) within DNA lends more credence to the evidence that it is far too complex to be random or evolutionary.

    That said, in my experience, I don't see folks having a big problem with folks holding to that truth. Instead, I think that most folks have a problem with "blind faith" crowd that speak in ways that seem to be dismissive of science altogether. It's unfortunate. There was a time when the church was VERY interested in science. I am a person of deep faith, but I view science as a way of discovering the truths of creation. While I don't see the 'concrete evidence' of evolution that so many seem to believe exists, I do see variations that lend credibility to the idea that God may have created a dynamic environment where life can respond to environmental changes over time. To me, that's even MORE fascinating.

    My point is not to inflame folks. Instead, it is to suggest that there are very smart folks on various sides of this issue who are very much open to the discoveries of science and are fascinated by the universe that we live in. Unfortunately, we live in a very intolerant world. Folks who don't "toe the line" are dismissed. Just look at many of the comments here... or go to Fox to see the other side. We'd do well to embrace the idea that an open mind is better than a closed one (on either side of a debate). Without an open mind, there really is no science at all.

    December 30, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  12. Jonathon Powelly

    This poll explains the rise of the Tea Party in the Republican ranks.

    December 30, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  13. Dumbas[R]ocks

    Even many of the familiar neo-tard trolls that post on here are too embarassed to defend the dumbing down of their [R] party.

    They're too embarrassed to defend it, but they'll blindly support it and then vote for it nonetheless.

    Not sure what the difference is between the loudly screeching tailless monkees, and those who do not screech as loud but nevertheless are happy to throw their feces when ordered to do so by those that are screeching.

    December 30, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  14. Noonyaa

    I think this story is more accurate than most people want to admit. I mean, if there is one group in this country that is IMPERVIOUS to evolving, it's REPUBLICANS.
    My question is this...Are you sure it's only a third of them that refuse to evolve? Because I was thinking that it's closer to one-half.

    December 30, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  15. alaskan1st

    Rick McDaniel
    The answer to the question, should be easy to understand. At the Biltmore Estate, in NC, all you need do, is examine the length of the beds, and the sizes of the clothing used, in the early 1900's, and compare that to the current equivalents.

    You will see, quite readily, I might say, that huamns have absolutely been evolving, just over that period of time, in terms of physical size. Overall, people have gotten taller, and larger, just in the last 100 yrs.

    Why there is even any discussion, when the answer is so obvious, is beyond me.

    ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    You're not observing evolution. That's an environmental cause. Evolution happens over a far greater time span.

    December 30, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  16. William Morris III

    It is the incredible ignorance and inadequate educations of those who profess to be Christian leaders that has driven me away from the church. The message of Jesus was of resurrection and God, not matters of science and bad science at that. No wonder church memberships continue to decline

    December 30, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  17. Silence DoGood

    @tom l
    So I believe in evolution but I do have to ask this: one second before the big bang, what was there? Plus, what made the big bang happen? If there was nothing there a second before then how did it happen? You can't answer that question.
    ---------–
    WE cannot right now but many brilliant physicists and thinkers have attempted to reason back to and beyond time in the big bang whatever that means. There was a time when no one knew what the far side of the moon looked like. Now we do. To have some hope of a decent answer from future scientists, keep science in the schools, keep religion in the churches. There – that was easy.

    December 30, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  18. Jim Russell

    Ignorance is curable with education. Stupidity is forever. Republicanism is becoming the repository of stupidity. The poll proves it.

    December 30, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  19. Tony

    Tampa Tim, you have nothing to apologize to truth hurts for. As his name suggests, truth hurts him.

    December 30, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  20. HoleN1

    Curly, What were the 7 clean animals? . Horse, cow , pig, ......? Did Noah have 7 pairs of clean animals on his boat or just 1 pair, just asking.... Are pigs considered clean or unclean? What makes the animals you mention clean or unclean? just askin......

    December 30, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
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