Perceptions of the public’s views on evolution are most certainly impacted by the presentation of poll questions, according, according to a Pew Research Center report published Jan. 6.
When God or a higher power is referenced in the possible responses to questions about evolution, the number of respondents who affirm the role of God or a higher power in the evolutionary process increases significantly.
Pew’s latest survey on evolution randomly assigned participants one of two question presentations – one with response choices that reference God or a higher power, and one that did not.
The latter survey stated, “Which statement comes closer to your own views, even if neither is exactly right?”
Respondents were given two choices: “Humans have evolved over time” or “Humans have existed in their present form from the beginning of time.”
Those who selected evolved were then given two additional response choices, one that affirmed the role of God or a higher power in the evolutionary process, and one that did not.
A total of 68 percent affirmed evolution (40 percent without and 38 percent with divine guidance), while 31 percent said human evolution did not occur.
The other survey stated, “Which statement comes closest to your view?”
Respondents were presented three choices (with no follow-up questions): humans have evolved with no divine role, humans have evolved over time with God or a higher power shaping the process, or humans have always existed in their present form.
A total of 81 percent affirmed evolution (33 percent without and 48 percent with divine guidance), while 18 percent denied human evolution has taken place.
“The experimental findings illustrate why testing multiple ways of asking about evolution is necessary and important,” the report said. “For some people, views about the origins and development of human life are bound up with deeply held religious beliefs. … Indeed, the data show that many Americans believe that life on Earth has evolved over time and that God or a supreme being played some role in the evolutionary process.”
The full report is available here.