Sixty percent of Americans say they believe that "humans and other living things have evolved over time," while one-third reject evolution, according to poll results released on Monday by the Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project.
While the overall percentages for both views remained roughly similar to the results of a Pew survey in 2009, the latest poll suggests that Republican respondents have grown more skeptical about evolution. This year, 43 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats said humans have evolved, compared with 54 percent and 64 percent respectively four years ago – meaning that the gap between Republicans and Democrats has jumped to 24 percentage points from 10 in less than five years.
Among independents in the most recent survey, 65 percent said humans and other living things evolved over time, down 2 percentage points since 2009.
"The gap is coming from the Republicans, where fewer are now saying that humans have evolved over time," Cary Funk, a Pew senior researcher who conducted the analysis, told Reuters.
Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants topped the list of those rejecting evolution, with 64 percent of those polled saying they believe humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.
"This has been a staple of evangelical Protestantism for nearly 100 years," said Alan Lichtman, an American University history professor and author of "White Protestant Nation: The Rise of the American Conservative Movement."
Half of black Protestants, or 50 percent, also said that "humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time," according to the survey results.
However, the survey also indicated that only 15 percent of white mainline Protestants — which include denominations such as the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Presbyterian Church USA — share that opinion.
But there was also more nuance in the poll results. About a quarter of those surveyed, or 24 percent, told Pew that "a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today."
For instance, while 78 percent of white mainline Protestants said humans and other living things had evolved over time, they are divided – 36 percent each – on whether that evolution occurred through natural processes or whether the process was "guided by a supreme being." The remainder said they did not know.
There was also a similar split, on what guided evolution, among white non-Hispanic Roman Catholics who said they believed in evolution.
Seventy-six percent of people who were religiously unaffiliated said that humans and other living things had evolved due to natural processes, while 13 percent from that group said it was guided by a supreme being.
The survey of 1,983 adults in all 50 states was conducted from March 21 to April 8, with a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Al Jazeera and Reuters