APS News

Public Opinion on Evolution and Intelligent Design

A study shows that Americans are divided about the teaching of evolution in public school science classes, but that many are uncertain about what should be taught, and most are interested in hearing from the scientific community about the subject. People are most likely to be influenced by messages that emphasize the contribution that evolution makes to medical and scientific research, the study found.

APS joined other scientific societies, such as the National Academy of Sciences, the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Physics, and several biological societies, in supporting the study which was conducted by two research firms, Greenberg-Quinlan-Rosner and Mercury Public Affairs, in order to help the scientific community develop effective messages and  establish public policy on science education. Over 40 scientific organizations helped advise the study.

The study, which included focus groups and an in-depth poll of likely voters, found that 53 percent of Americans favor teaching evolution in science class, 27 percent favor teaching intelligent design, and 36 percent favor teaching creationism.

However, there is a lot of uncertainty among likely voters about the issue: 22 percent said they do not know whether evolution should be taught, and 32 percent do not know whether creationism should be taught. Forty-one percent of respondents were not sure whether intelligent design should be taught.

Most people do want to hear from the scientific community about evolution.  Seventy-seven percent of Americans reported being “very or somewhat interested” in hearing about evolution from members of the scientific community, and 76 percent are interested in hearing from science teachers.

The study also looked at which messages are most likely to influenced people’s opinions. It found that messages that remind people about the contribution that evolution makes to medical and scientific research work best.  After hearing that evolution is essential to understanding medicine and the human body, 61 percent of survey respondents were more likely to support teaching evolution in public schools.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff