A recent Pew Research Center study found a significant increase in just the past four years in the number of Republicans who say that they don’t believe in evolution. When asked whether humans and other living things have evolved over time or existed in their present form since the beginning, 48 percent of Republicans answered “existed in present form since the beginning”, compared to 39 percent of Republicans who answered the same in 2009, a statistically significant and large difference. There are a number of possible explanations about why there was such a large change in only four years. In a 3 January blog post, Cary Funk, Pew Research Center senior researcher, took a closer look at the data and offered some intriguing possibilities.
One hypothesis Funk examined was whether the Republican Party is more religious today than it was in 2009. For instance, it could be that people with higher levels of religiosity gravitated toward the GOP, whilst less-religious Republicans left the party. However, Funk found that the Republican Party looks demographically about the same as it did in 2009. Its distribution of religious adherents is about the same and it looks similar in terms of religious participation, gender, race, and ethnicity. The only demographic difference is that it’s slightly older.
Funk found that the shift in attitudes on evolution were amongst less-religious Republicans. Views on evolution remained about the same amongst Republicans with high levels of religiosity (measured by frequency of attendance at religious services). In 2009, 56 percent of Republicans who said they attended religious services weekly or more answered that humans existed in their present form since the beginning. Today, that number is about the same, 59 percent. However, amongst Republicans attending religious services less than weekly, there was a more-significant shift. In 2009, 23 percent answered that humans always existed in their present form. Today, that number increased 12 percentage points to 35 percent. Amongst Democrats, views on evolution haven’t changed much, regardless of frequency of church attendance.
Funk also noted that there might be a “priming effect” that explains the differences in the two surveys. Sometimes, a poll question can produce different results based upon the question asked directly before it. The previous question “primes” the respondent to think a certain way in how they should answer the question. There could be several reasons for the shift in Republican attitudes on evolution found by Pew, according to Funk. She said that Pew would ask a broader range of question in future to understand beliefs about evolution better.
9 January 2014
There are two takeaways from this, neither of which are pleasant reading for Republicans. Firstly, the Republican Party’s gotten older. That is, it’s losing the battle for younger voters. Secondly, the Republican Party’s going cranky. To be exact, its appeal to those outside of the Evangelical subculture (and those related to it) is diminishing.
Let’s not shilly-shally about. If you want to know the age of the planet, you ask a scientist. If you want to know the “why” of creation, you ask a theologian. They’re not in conflict, as they treat two very different aspects of the topic. Priests aren’t experts on everything. If I have a medical problem, I consult a doctor, not a priest. If I need confession, I see a priest, not a doctor. That’s so clear-cut that I’m ashamed to have to say it explicitly. Sadly enough, there are those amongst us who need to hear down-to-earth truth. I say, “Don’t go mucking with the Fathers when you should focus on the Green Eggs and Ham of Christian life”. I’ll work on “holiness” when I’ve mastered simple human decency… that’s still a work in progress. I’m not alone in thinking that way…