Evolution and Creationism in Public Education

Background and Objectives

For decades, there has been an ongoing debate in the United States regarding how public schools can best teach the scientific theories about the origins and development of human beings without minimizing the religious beliefs of many Americans. Recently, this debate has intensified in various states and localities throughout the nation. The issue: whether or not to include “Creationism” in the public school curriculum either in conjunction with Evolution or, as some have proposed, as a replacement for the Theory of Evolution. Kansas has become “ground zero” for this current debate. The Kansas State Board of Education has taken a major policy step by voting last year to delete Evolution from its new state science standards. Other states or localities may follow suit with other anti-evolution or pro-creationism measures.

What does the American public think about this issue? This is no simple topic that can be answered with one “yes or no” survey question. There are many nuances that need to be explored. For example:

  • How familiar are people with “Creationism” and “Evolution”? Are all Americans using the same definitions?
  • Do people view this as a strict “either/or” issue, or do they believe the scientific theory of Evolution and a belief in God can coexist?
  • How strongly held are people’s opinions on this issue? Are people’s minds made up, or are opinions still in the process of forming?
  • Is this an issue the public believes should be handled locally, or one that warrants national direction?
  • What are the key motivations behind people’s opinions? Are they religiously based, or a cry for more morality in the schools, or something else?
  • People For the American Way Foundation commissioned DYG, Inc. to find out exactly what was going on regarding this issue. We assembled a senior research team to tackle this complex issue, led by our Chairman Daniel Yankelovich.

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