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Culture Wars in State Education Policy: A Look at the Relative Treatment of Evolutionary Theory in State Science Standards


  • *The author agrees to share all data and coding information with those wishing to replicate this study. The author thanks Scott Ainsworth, Mark Smith, Trey Hood, Frank Mixon, Kenneth Cumming, and anonymous referees for helpful comments and suggestions. Remaining errors are his own.

Troy Gibson, Department of Political Science, University of Southern Mississippi, Long Beach, MS 39560


Objectives. Students of public policy have recognized that not all policies are completely or mostly shaped by socioeconomic factors. Some policies, known as morality policies, derive from the deeply held values and beliefs of effective participants in the policy-making process. To better understand this distinct policy category and where it exists, policy analysts must test for the impact of both socioeconomic forces and explanatory factors developed in morality politics theory (particularly religious contexts). This study attempts to explain differences in state science education standards with regard to stipulated instruction in evolutionary theory as morality policy.

Methods. A cross-sectional study of the American states employing ordinary least squares and logistic regression analysis assesses the impact of popular evangelical adherence over the presence of evolution-friendly state science standards, ceteris paribus.

Results. Socioeconomic factors inadequately explain the variation in state science standards. Furthermore, these standards are morality policies with clearly defined religious implications and are better explained by state religious divisions than by other cultural forces such as state ideological context.

Conclusion. This study demonstrates that some policies have clear implications for religious beliefs and may represent a subcategory of morality policy. These kinds of policies are better explained by religious contexts than other political and cultural determinants of morality policies.