Recent data from the Pew Research Center reveal that the percentage of polled Republicans who say they believe in evolution is down from 54 percent in 2009 to 43 percent today. In addition, nearly half of Republicans polled (48 percent) believe all living things have existed as they are since they came into being.
Over the years, the Republican Party has evolved (pardon the expression) from a business-oriented, small-government, middle-to-upper class political organism into the home of evangelical Protestants. They share many of the characteristics of traditional Republicans but bring to the mix a Bible-based worldview that rejects concepts that run counter to literal interpretation of the Scripture — evolution in particular.
It is only natural that opinion within the party will shift as this element in the GOP grows. Traditional Republicans remain, but they are no longer alone in shaping party opinion.
The poll pointed out how opinions on evolution differ according to political alignment: the number of Democrats accepting evolution increased slightly and independents decreased slightly, but both remained at more than 60 percent. The poll also revealed that the level of education and age are factors. Younger people and those with a higher level of education are more likely to accept evolution than the older and the less-educated — factors underscored by the demographics of the reconstituted Republican base.
The poll might also point to a way Republicans can appeal to black voters, since the second-largest group to reject evolution are black Protestants.
It would be interesting if the poll had separated opinions on human evolution from the evolution of other living things.
While many of the great anti-evolutionists refused to accept human evolution and the social implication of natural selection, they were willing to accept the evolution of other species, mutations that enabled insects, for example, to develop resistance to insecticides.
Without that distinction being drawn, we have an incomplete picture of the extent to which the American public accepts or rejects (or, for that matter, understands) a theory that is the bedrock of much of modern biology.