ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Evolution is now publicly accepted by a majority of Americans, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.
The study was based on a series of national public opinion surveys conducted over the last 35 years. In the national samples, U.S. adults were asked to agree or disagree with this statement: “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”
The series of surveys showed that Americans were evenly divided on the question of evolution from 1985 to 2007. But over the last decade, the percentage of American adults who agreed with the statement increased from 40% to 54%, according to the university.
“From 1985 to 2010, there was a statistical dead heat between acceptance and rejection of evolution,” said lead researcher Jon D. Miller of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. “But acceptance then surged, becoming the majority position in 2016.”
The study identified aspects of education as the strongest factors leading to the acceptance of evolution. That includes civic science literacy, taking college courses in science, and having a college degree.
“Almost twice as many Americans held a college degree in 2018 as in 1988,” said co-author Mark Ackerman, a researcher at Michigan Engineering, the U-M School of Information and Michigan Medicine. “It’s hard to earn a college degree without acquiring at least a little respect for the success of science.”
Meanwhile, the study identified religious fundamentalism as the strongest factor leading to the rejection of evolution.
There’s also a stark difference in belief between the political parties. As of 2019, the university says 34% of conservative Republicans accepted evolution compared to 83% of liberal Democrats.