SAYit Blog
Evolution vs Creationism in Schools

This week's blog looks at how evolution and creationism should be dealt with in schools - it's a follow-up to the blog on teaching religion in schools (available here) and comes from the same October 2013 SAYit poll of a representative sample of n=1000 New Zealanders aged 18 years or older.  I've previously discussed results of a poll on what people think about evolution in this blog here.

Those who've read the religion on schools blog will recall that the format for those questions involved allowing people to specify how strongly they agreed or disagreed with some statements.  It's the same approach here, with the two statements being:

  • "Evolution should be taught as the view of how life developed which is generally accepted by scientists"
  • "Evolution, creationism and intelligent design should be taught as equally valid explanations for how life developed." 

New Zealanders are quite supportive of evolution being taught as the accepted view of scientists:

  • 68% of New Zealanders agree that this should be the case, while 14% disagree and 18% are neutral or unsure.
  • Men (75%), under 30 year olds (74%) and Wellingtonians (76%) are particularly supportive of this view.
  • 83% of people with postgraduate degrees support this view, compared with 63% of those with only high school qualifications or less.
  • 75% of people with household incomes over $100,000 support this view, compared with 58% of those with household incomes below $30,000.
  • 88% of Green voters and 73% of Labour voters agree with this statement, compared with 64% of National voters.

We are, however, reasonably evenly split on the idea of evolution, creationism and intelligent design being taught as equally valid:

  • 38% agree with this idea, while 38% disagree and 24% are unsure.
  • The differences between demographic groups are comparatively small, although Wellingtonians (23%) and people with postgraduate degrees (28%) are less likely to agree than provincial North Island residents (44%) or people with high school qualifications or below (43%).
  • 41% of National voters agree with this idea, compared with 34% of Labour voters and 30% of Green voters.

With topics like this it's often useful to compare the way individuals have responded to each statement:

  • 39% of those who said that evolution should be taught as the accepted view of scientists NONETHELESS said that evolution, creationism and intelligent design should be taught as equally valid explanations for how life began.  In other words, although they seemed to respect the view of scientists, they saw those views as no more than equal to those of religious authorities.
  • 53% of those who support New Zealand schools teaching Christianity from a Christian perspective also believe that evolution, creationism and intelligent design should be taught as equally valid explanations for how life began.
  • 55% of those who support New Zealand schools teaching Christianity from a Christian perspective also believe that evolution should be taught as the view accepted by scientists, compared with 80% of those who do not want NZ schools to teach Christianity from a Christian perspective.
  • 75% of those who want schools to teach about the differences between religions but not take a view on which is right also believe that believe that evolution should be taught as the view accepted by scientists.