Polling Muslims on evolution

Pew Research Center

A new report discussing a poll of Muslims around the globe suggests (PDF, p. 132) that "[m]any Muslims around the world believe in evolution." Specifically, the report, entitled "The World's Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society," explains, "[i]n 13 of the 22 countries where the question was asked, at least half say humans and other living things have evolved over time. By contrast, in just four countries do at least half say that humans have remained in their present form since the beginning of time." The underlying poll, conducted by Opinion Research Business and Princeton Survey Research for the Pew Research Center "between 2008 and 2012 in a total of 39 countries and territories on three continents," "involved more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 80-plus languages and dialects."

The respondents were asked "Thinking about evolution, which comes closer to your view?" and presented with "Humans and other living things have evolved over time" and "Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time." The greatest level of acceptance of evolution was in Kazakhstan (79%), Lebanon (78%), and the Palestinian territories (67%); the lowest level was in Afghanistan (26%), Iraq (27%), and Pakistan (30%). The global median was 53%. There was a correlation between religious observance and rejection of evolution in Southern and Eastern Europe, but not elsewhere, In a Pew poll conducted in 2011, Muslims in the United States were almost evenly split, with 45% accepting evolution, a level comparable with Indonesia (39%), Tunisia (45%), and Bosnia-Herzegovina (50%), but below the global median.

The countries in which the evolution question was asked were Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Russia in Southern-Eastern Europe; Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan in Central Asia; Indonesia, Malaysia, and (five southern provinces of) Thailand in Southeast Asia; Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan in South Asia; and Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian terrorities, and Tunisia in the Middle East and North Africa. The report notes that the survey covered "every country that has more than 10 million Muslims except for a handful (including China, India, Saudi Arabia and Syria) where political sensitivities or security concerns prevented opinion research among Muslims," but questions on evolution and conflict between science and religion were not asked in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the report, "In all countries, surveys were administered through face-to-face interviews conducted at a respondent's place of residence. All samples are based on area probability designs, which typically entailed proportional stratification by region and urbanity, selection of primary sampling units (PSUs) proportional to population size, and random selection of secondary and tertiary sampling units within PSUs." The questionnaire was translated into appropriate languages, reviewed, and pretested prior to fieldwork. After the fieldwork, the data were weighted for different probabilities of selection and for demographic factors, and the reported sampling errors take into account both types of weighting. The margins of error vary for each country, from +/- 2.8% for Russia to +/- 6.3% for the Palestinian territories.