|Graph showing the results of Gallup's creationism poll over the last 20 years|
Gallup have been polling the American public on the same question, with the same choice of responses, since 1982. While the figures have fluctuated over this 20 year period, they have not done so greatly – the 2012 "creationist" figure of 46 per cent is up from the 2011 figure of 40 per cent, but as Gallup point out it is very close to the all-time average of 45 per cent. The figure for those believing humans evolved without God playing a part has risen slightly over time, having stood at just 9 per cent in 1982, but it has hovered around the mid-teens for most of the last decade.
So how should we interpret these figures? As Gallup point out in their own analysis, for anyone hoping to see public opinion catching up with scientific discovery, the poll makes for bleak reading:
"Despite the many changes that have taken place in American society and culture over the past 30 years, including new discoveries in biological and social science, there has been virtually no sustained change in Americans' views of the origin of the human species since 1982. The 46% of Americans who today believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years is little changed from the 44% who believed this 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question.So what hope for those who would prefer to see the numbers believing in creationism plummet in the future? The poll does provide a slight glimmer, revealing that those who have had access to better educations are less likely to hold creationist views. However, even among college graduates creationism still wins the day, with 46 per cent selecting the "God created human beings pretty much in their present form..." answer. It's only among Americans with postgraduate degrees that evolution comes to the fore, with 42 per cent saying it happened with some help from God, and 29 per cent saying it happened without a god, compared to 25 per cent opting for the creationist response.
More broadly, some 78% of Americans today believe that God had a hand in the development of humans in some way, just slightly less than the percentage who felt this way 30 years ago.
All in all, there is no evidence in this trend of a substantial movement toward a secular viewpoint on human origins."
Clearly American advocates of science education have their work cut out for them in the years ahead.