Majority Supports Teaching Both Sides of Evolution Debate

Just in time for Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of his Origin of Species, a new nationwide Zogby poll of likely voters indicates overwhelming public support for teaching the scientific evidence for and against Darwin’s theory. The poll shows similar overwhelming support for giving students and teachers the academic freedom to discuss the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution.  

According to the Discovery Institute’s Dr. John West, the poll results may shatter some preconceptions held by those in the media about who supports letting students hear a balanced presentation on Darwinian theory.  

“Media reports insinuate that a right-wing conspiracy of know-nothings and religious extremists is afoot,” said West. “But the new Zogby poll reveals a broad-based and well-informed public consensus for academic freedom on evolution. That consensus includes Democrats, Republicans, liberals, moderates, independents, and every race, gender, and age group. The Darwin Lobby has isolated itself from public opinion.”

According to the poll, Democrats (82%) and liberals (86%) are even more likely than Republicans (73%) and conservatives (72%) to support the academic freedom of teachers and students to discuss the “strengths and weaknesses of evolution.”  

The poll also shows a dramatic 9-point increase over 2006 in the percentage of likely voters who agree that “Biology teachers should teach Darwin’s theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it.” Support for that position has jumped to 78%, up from 69% in 2006. The percentage of likely voters who favor teaching only the evidence for evolution suffered a corresponding decline of 7 points, from 21% in 2006 to just over 14% this year.  

“Clearly, the Darwin-only crowd is losing public support,” said West. “There seems to be a backlash against the strong-arm tactics that have been used in recent years to censor and intimidate scientists, teachers, and students who raise criticisms of Darwin.”

Zogby International conducted the survey of 1,053 likely voters from 1/29/09 through 1/31/09.