Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Interesting results

Pew did a survey on religious issues, including creationism (discussed more in this Times piece):
Overall, about half the public (48%) says that humans and other living things have evolved over time, while 42% say that living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Fully 70% of white evangelical Protestants say that life has existed in its present form since the beginning of time; fewer than half as many white mainline Protestants (32%) and white Catholics (31%) agree.

Despite these fundamental differences, most Americans (64%) say they are open to the idea of teaching creationism along with evolution in the public schools, and a substantial minority (38%) favors replacing evolution with creationism in public school curricula. While much of this support comes from religious conservatives, these ideas ­ particularly the idea of teaching both perspectives ­ have a broader appeal. Even many who are politically liberal and who believe in evolution favor expanding the scope of public school education to include teaching creationism. But an analysis of the poll also reveals that there are considerable inconsistencies between people's beliefs and what they want taught in the schools, suggesting some confusion about the meaning of terms such as "creationism" and "evolution."

Despite the growing national debate over the teaching of evolution, there is little evidence that school discussions of evolution are upsetting to students. Just 6% of parents with children in school say their child has mentioned feeling uncomfortable when the subject of evolution comes up at school. Comparably small numbers of parents say their children have expressed unease when the subjects of religion or homosexuality have come up at their child's school.

The survey shows that large majorities of Americans believe that parents, scientists and school boards all should have a say in how evolution is taught in schools. But a plurality (41%) believes that parents ­ rather than scientists (28%) or school boards (21%) ­ should have the primary responsibility in this area.
The full demographic breakdown is available here, and I'll be analyzing it when I get a chance. I'm fascinated by that last sentence I quoted. In particular, it means that it's less important than I thought it was to tell people that the Board ignored the science standards proposed by scientists and science educators on the science standards committee, but that I should point out that most(all?) of the committee members are parents. School boards alone have low support, so it's about getting parents to speak out.

This is also of interest:

There is no public consensus about how scientists view evolution. Opinions about what scientists believe are strongly associated with one's own beliefs on the subject. Most Americans (54%) think that there is general agreement among scientists that evolution has taken place, but a substantial minority (33%) says that no such scientific consensus exists. By an 82%-13% margin, those who accept natural selection theory see a scientific consensus on this issue. Among those who take a creationist position, a 46% plurality thinks the scientific community is divided over the evolution question.

While most people who accept evolution believe there is a scientific consensus on the topic, they themselves express less certainty about how life developed on earth than do people who believe the creationist account. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of those who take a creationist point of view say they are very certain about how life developed. By contrast, those who believe in evolution are less certain of their views ­ just 32% say they are very certain.
So, no public consensus exists that the scientific consensus exists, even though it does.

Noted in passing:

Midwesterners have a more favorable impression of schools' handling of sex education than do Southerners or Westerners, while Democrats rate schools more negatively for their handling of homosexuality than do Republicans. On both sex education and homosexuality, non-whites are considerably more likely to give schools a poor rating than are whites.
Suggesting that changes to sex ed imported from the South won't fly well here.

Growing majorities support letting gays serve openly in the armed forces. A 2008 campaign issue?

Guaranteed health insurance is a powerful wedge issue among Republicans. Dems and Independents strongly support a guarantee of health care, even of taxes rise. Republicans are split. A reasonable health care proposal could divide Republican voters.