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.