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God and Darwin Coexisting in the Classroom?
Political Junkie

By Richard Morin
Washington Post Polling Director
Monday, March 13, 2000

Most Americans say God and Darwin can happily coexist in America's classrooms and want children in public schools to learn both about creationism and the theory of evolution, according to a new national survey.

Nearly two in three Amercans surveyed—63 percent—said some form of creationism and evolution should be taught in the schools. Most, however, say creationism would best be taught in classes other than science courses, such as philosophy.

But public thinking on these issues is incomplete and uninformed, with half of the country saying they've never heard the word "creationism"; most also admit they don't really know what the theory of evolution is, wrote analysts for the People for the American Way. The liberal foundation sponsored the poll, which was conducted by DYG Inc.

Such ignorance suggests that many Americans have been tuning out the news. Last year, the Kansas Board of Education voted to delete evolution from its new state science standards. And more recently, controversy has erupted in Rochester, N.Y., over efforts to create a public charter school that includes instruction in creationism in its science classes.

And in Tangipahoa Parish, La., the school board recently voted to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that found their anti-evolution, pro-religion disclaimer in science textbooks to be unconstitutional.

"Perhaps not since the Scopes Monkey Trial of the 1920s has so much public attention been paid to this issue," foundation analysts wrote.

But what do Americans really think about creationism and evolution? To find out, DYG surveyed 1,500 randomly selected Americans last November.

Overall, the results suggest that Americans favor a third-way solution to the conflict. Eight in 10 say they want evolution taught in public schools. Nearly seven in 10 say the theory of evolution is entirely compatible with a belief in God. And six in 10 rejected the 1999 Kansas Board of Education decision to eliminate evolution from state science standards, while nearly three in 10—28 percent—supported the board's action.

That's not to say Americans want God out of the public schools. In a finding that likely dismayed the People for the American Way, a clear majority of Americans—63 percent—want public instruction in creationism and evolution. One in five said they wanted schools to teach only evolution, while 16 percent wanted only creationism taught.

The Exit Poll Wars (Con't.)

When we left our story in last week's issue, Voters News Service, the network exit polling consortium, was under siege by naughty Web journalists who were posting the results of interviews with early primary voters hours before the polls closed.

Then came Super Tuesday, and our strange tale turned surreal when the VNS board met in the dead of night on election eve and decided to cut off subscribers from the first wave of exit poll results, which were to be released at 2 p.m. EDT.

Most subscribers, which include The Washington Post, The New York Times and hundreds of other news organizations, learned of the board's action when we came to work on Super Tuesday and found a curt voice mail message from VNS announcing the delay.

It was not a total clampdown: The VNS partners still got the 2 p.m. numbers. But access was restricted to two people at each of the partners: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News and the Associated Press. Presumably this would stop the leaks.

It most certainly prevented many subscribing news organizations from using the early numbers to plan a portion of their election coverage. At The Post, we have used the early breakdown of vote by gender, age, ideology and issues preferences to alert reporters to developing voting trends. Less useful to us are the early "horse race" numbers—though it was the posting of these numbers on several Web sites that prompted the whole controversy. (For the record, horse race numbers are those that tell which candidates are ahead.)

The Super Tuesday punch line: The Post had the "secret" horse-race numbers, which told who was ahead in every one of the primaries shortly after 2 p.m.—just minutes after the partners got the feed from VNS. These were not the numbers I wanted most, but they were the numbers that VNS was trying so hard to protect.

Other news organizations and even the campaigns—a scary thought: the political parties may have infiltrated VNS—had the numbers almost instantaneously. It took two telephone calls for The Post to get the scoop. Perhaps better-connected newsies got the numbers with one call. My guess is the clampdown was effective for, oh, 20 minutes. Tops.

At least we know where the leaks are coming from. VNS and its partners have met the enemy, and it is them.

Thinking Globally

Americans like globalization but are sharply divided over the benefits of international trade, with a bare majority saying the benefits of trade outweigh its cost to the United States, according to a survey by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.

"Overall, the American public sees globalization as more positive than negative," wrote PIPA analysts in a summary of their findings. "A large majority favors moving with the process of globalization and only a small minority favors resisting it."

But many Americans still have their doubts about the advantages of international trade. Not even a third—31 percent—said the goal of the United States should be to "actively promote" international trade; one in four said it should simply be tolerated but not encouraged. Perhaps as significant, four in 10—39 percent—said the United States should try to "slow it down" (31 percent) or "try to stop or reverse it" (8 percent).

Richard Morin is director of polling for The Washington Post. "What Americans Think" appears Mondays in The Washington Post National Weekly Edition. Morin can be reached at morinr@clark.net .


© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company


 
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