Last year Gallup published a survey investigating how many Americans accept evolution. The results were quite disconcerting, revealing that 46% of the American public are actually young earth creationists, a greater number than in 2010. Despite all the pro-evolution books, all the effort invested in improving the science curriculum belief in creationism has actually risen in recent years.
However, when the 2008 Gallup poll on the subject was published 3 researchers wrote a critique of Gallup’s methodology, raising issues Gallup has yet to fix. The crux of their criticism was that people who “don’t know” or are “undecided” tended to fluctuate between full blown creationism and theistic evolution. If a particularly large number of these “swing believers” swing in one direction, this can unrealistically inflate the number of creationists in America.
So these 3 researchers conducted their own study. It was basically the same as Gallup’s, except they added “I don’t know” and “undecided” as possible options (Gallup only has a “no opinion”. Given this is such a divisive issue I think the number of people with no opinion will be small). Of course, there’s no guarantee this will catch all the swing believers.
So, to try and further reduce the number of faux creationists, these researchers also asked follow-up questions about whether or not participants agreed with various creationist statements, such as humans and dinosaurs living side by side. The thinking being that someone who isn’t really a full blown creationist will not necessarily agree with these positions, helping weed them out.
Their survey confirmed their suspicions, showing that many “creationists” were really undecided or didn’t know the answer. Even amongst those who did claim to be creationists, most didn’t believe in the creationist statements. In fact, over half of all US creationists believed that dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. Hardly a young earth position.
When all of this is taken to account these researchers arrived at the conclusion that only 25% of the American public are actually proper creationists. Although this number is still far too high, it does suggest that the situation isn’t quite as hopeless as the Gallup results do.
And in the fight against nonsense, I’ll take all the hope I can get.