Following stagnancy, public acceptance of biological evolution in the United States has significantly increased in the past decade. Surveys conducted between 1985 and 2010 showed that around 40 per cent of US adults agreed that humans developed from earlier animal species. However, by 2016, the percentage had risen to 54 per cent, indicating a majority acceptance.
The researchers found that completing one or more college science courses was the strongest predictor of accepting evolution, suggesting that education played a crucial role in this shift. The proportion of American adults with scientific literacy increased from 11 per cent in 1988 to 31 per cent in 2019. The rise in knowledge is attributed, in part, to the replacement of educators less inclined to teach evolution with new teachers.
However, religious beliefs may still influence acceptance, with some researchers suggesting that it is a stronger predictor than educational attainment. In the US, evolution remains a politically charged topic, particularly among supporters of the Republican Party, which often aligns its policies with evangelical Christian values. As a result, the US has lower acceptance rates for evolution than other developed nations.
In 2019, a study found that 83 per cent of liberal Democrats accepted evolution, while only 34 per cent of conservative Republicans did. Fundamental religious beliefs still play a role, with around 30 per cent of American adults holding beliefs contradicting evolutionary theory. However, the recent increase in acceptance primarily comes from individuals who were previously unsure rather than those who outright rejected evolution.
While religion continues to be a barrier, the decline in fundamental beliefs and increased exposure to science education are expected to contribute to further acceptance of evolution.