Pulpits Versus Ivory Towers: Socializing Agents and Evolution Attitudes


  • *Direct correspondence to Donald P. Haider-Markel, Department of Political Science, 1541 Lilac Ln., 504 Blake Hall, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66044 〈dhmarkel@ku.edu〉. The authors thank the Pew Research Center for making the data used in this article publicly available. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Second International Summer School on Sociology and Political Science, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, Ukraine, June 2006. Data and coding information used in this analysis are available for replication purposes from Haider-Markel.


Objective. Although debate concerning the theory of evolution is part of an ongoing U.S. dialogue over the proper role of religion in society, academics have provided little in the way of systematic understanding of public opinion on this issue. Important questions, such as the relative influence of socializing agents—religion and education—in shaping attitudes on evolution remain unanswered. Building on socialization and cognitive accessibility theories, we offer a framework for predicting public opinion on human origins and the teaching of evolution in public schools.

Methods. We model attitudes on evolution and related policy through analysis of data from a 2005 national survey of U.S. adults.

Results. Our analysis suggests that religion and education are key predictors of opinion, but that gender, partisanship, and ideology also play an important role.

Conclusion. The socializing agent of religion outweighs the effect of education on attitudes related to evolution.