Darwin Fish

Darwin Fish Wikimedia Commons

A plurality of Republicans now believe that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time, according to a new Pew study. That’s 48 percent of them, compared with 43 percent who believe life forms have evolved over time.

What’s particularly remarkable is how quickly the party has shifted on this issue. Just four years ago, Republicans accepted evolution by a margin of 15 percentage points, 54-39. Meanwhile, Democrats have increased their margin of belief in evolution by six points, from 64-30 to 67-27. The overall point differential between the two parties has thus gone from 19 to 45. Independents, meanwhile, have stayed within the margin of error, remaining just about as pro-evolution as the Democrats.

So what happened to the Republicans?

A simple demographic explanation would point a finger at white evangelicals. In 2009, Pew found 57 percent of them disbelieving in evolution. That number has now increased to 64 percent. Given the disproportionate presence of white evangelicals in the Republican Party — they constituted 40 percent of the Romney vote in 2012 — this would account for roughly one-third of the shift in party views.

As for the rest of the shift, my conjecture is that Republican identity has increasingly come to be associated with the most conservative religious viewpoint on the full array of cultural issues — be it abortion, same-sex marriage, physician-assisted suicide, evolution, you name it. If you’re a Republican, that’s the program you’ve got to be with.

Categories: Beliefs


Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service


  1. samuel Johnston

    Hi Mark,
    Please refrain from using the term belief, to describe those who accept evolution as proven fact. One can accept proven facts and toss them out the next day with a clear conscience, when other facts become more persuasive. Belief, as used by Christian believers is not interchangeable with that position. Would any Church accept my “faith” if it was just a position subject to new evidence? Well, perhaps the Unitarians would,
    but are they a Church anyway?
    Likewise, I object to being called an atheist, simply because I do not accept Christian theology.

  2. So the Republicans are now the anti-evolution party as well as the anti-gay-marriage party?

    Then sign me up, baby! Good to see a political party that can accomplish something other than spitting in God’s face every single day.

  3. samuel Johnston

    Doc Anthony,
    A cult? What an ignorant remark.
    I have never met an anti-evolutionist who had ever read “On The Origin Of Species” or even William Paley’s “Natural theology”. The saddest thing is that a Century and a half later, nothing has been added to Paley’s argument, while Darwinism has produced better health for us all, and a huge increase in our understanding of nature.

    • In 2014. modern science has put so many holes and doubts in the theory of evolution that it’s no longer possible either laymen or scientists — or Christians — to ignore them.

      Anybody who can buy an inexpensive microscope or digital camera is sufficiently ready and equipped to add plenty of living details to Paley’s argument. Visual evidence of intelligent design is all around us.

      There are plenty of everyday examples in the plant, animal, human, and cellular realms that never have been — not even slightly! — explained by the theory evolution.

      At this point, evolution can easily be classified as a religious cult. A curious and tainted mixture of blinkered science and negative religious (materialistic) presuppositions, rather reminiscent of the late Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid..

        • You’re right, evangelicals are to be found in both camps. In fact, you don’t even have to be a Christian, let alone an evangelical, to recognize and appreciate the intelligent design that is all around us.

          Having said that, the Bible very clearly supports the doctrine of young-earth, NOT old-earth. Furthermore, the young-earth doctrine totally avoids the evolutionist pushback of “Why would an ethical, loving God make all the animals to suffer through a gazillion years of bloody, sadistic deaths and torments in the natural world, merely to create a couple of self-aware humans.”

          So I believe in, and endorse, the young-earth doctrine. But I also like intelligent design and find much common ground with other camps, on that basis.

      • No they haven’t. You can’t cite to a single shred of evidence accepted in the field of study which says so.

        Paley’s argument is self-serving nonsense. Evidence of intelligent design not only does not exist, but has no scientific basis. No authority in a scientific field accepts it, nor has any reason to. It does nothing for research or questions in the field. Saying “God did it” is not scientific nor useful.

        Creationism is dishonesty incarnate. Creationists first lie is that their religious belief can be proven by objective, scientific methods. Its a lie because no Creationist could ever be persuaded against their religious belief using the same methods. So obviously there is only lip service to such methods or as a basis of belief. Creationism denies the basis of belief is faith. If you have alleged evidence, you don’t need faith. Faith is the belief in the absence of evidence.

        But every Creationist ultimately admits their belief is based on faith. So they refute their own prior Creationist talk and constructively admit they were lying previously.

  4. samuel Johnston

    ..modern science has put so many holes and doubts in the theory of evolution…
    More ignorance.
    I will grant that intelligent design is easier to understand than evolution driven by natural selection. We naturally reason by analogy with everyday experience, so the concepts of science which contradict our experience are very difficult to grasp and require thought and study. I first read “On the Origin of Species” at age 55 and was astonished at how little I understood of the concepts. Ernst Mayer’s “One long Argument” is an introduction to current expert opinion on Darwin’s theory. The most helpful nutshell idea I have discovered, can be restated stated thusly: Biochemistry and genetic programming are best thought of as menus, rather than blueprints. Chemistry is self assembling.
    So I challenge any anti-evolutionist to prove that they understand evolution before they reject it.

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