November 29, 2007

What Americans Believe (Hint: More Sorcery than Science)

An online Harris poll of 2,455 adult Americans, conducted November 7-13, 2007, asked those who have previously registered with the company about their religious and other beliefs. Some of the results are more than a little troubling for those who favor rationality and science and are concerned with the growing influence of superstition in our culture. Some points of note:

  • 79% of respondents believe in miracles
  • 62% believe in the devil
  • 41% believe in ghosts
  • 29% believe in astrology
  • 42% "believe in" evolution
As usual, I'm rather uncomfortable with evolutionary biology being represented as a belief, but this is how the question was asked. The fact that about as many Americans understand how the diversity of life came to be as believe that their late Uncle Fred may pay them a visit at midnight is rather disheartening and, I would maintain, speaks to how deeply superstitious and fearful people still are at this point in our history.

Results from the poll, as reported in a press release from Harris Interactive via BusinessWire, are reproduced below. The poll further breaks down the likelihood that respondents held a particular belief by their professed membership in a religion. It also notes changes in the proportion of those holding a particular belief since the question about it was asked in a similar 2005 poll.

For a full reporting of more data and the methodology involved, see the press release from Harris.

To my eyes, this paints a picture of a rather woo-ful and gullible nation that is either unaware of, or not properly equipped to, engage in critical thought as a population. Much of this doesn't bode well for our future.

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