US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Making decisions on faith, and not that pesky science

Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Candidates take note: If you hope to court the vote of Tea Partiers and evangelicals, be sure to denounce the science of climate change and evolution.

A new study released today by the Public Religion Research Institute contained a host of interesting findings about Americans' beliefs when it comes to these two topics. Overall, 57 percent of Americans say they believe in evolution (and 61 percent of Catholics, which is still pretty low), although there is some disagreement among them on whether the process of evolution was natural or guided by a supreme being. But only 32 percent of evangelicals and 43 percent of Tea Party supporters think humans have evolved over time.

When it comes to climate change, 69 percent of those polled (and 70 percent of Catholics) say there is strong scientific evidence to prove that global warming isn't a "myth," as some claim. But not surprisingly, there's a strong divide here along political lines - 81 percent of Democrats and only 49 percent of Republicans believe that climate change is real. And at the bottom of the list is the Tea Party, with only 41 percent believing in climate change (evangelicals here are way above the average Republican numbers, with 57 percent agreeing that the earth is getting warmer).

What makes the poll more interesting is that respondents were also asked whether a candidate's stance on these issues would impact their vote. On evolution, evangelicals were the only group where a large number (32 percent) said they would be more likely to back a candidate who doesn't believe in evolution. For the Tea Party, a candidate who doesn't believe in climate change has a stronger appeal to 33 percent of the party members polled.

If you've been listening to the Republican presidential hopefuls, you already know that some are trying to appeal to voters who doubt scientific evidence on these two topics. In fact, it has already been well-documented that candidates are putting their faith front and center, and aren't so big on science.

For people of faith, hearing that someone who could potentially be sitting in the White House bases some of their decisions on their religious beliefs isn't all bad. But when they flat out deny the validity of scientific study, even if it is just part of a political tactic to win voters, that should raise more red flags for us.

So while it may be interesting to note what attracts certain religious groups or members of a particular party to a candidate, there's a much more important statistic in the PRRI poll: Nearly 50 percent of Americans say that a candidate's take on these issues doesn't make a difference in their vote. That's a troubling finding, especially when it comes to an issue like climate change, which could have severe implications on the future of our world. Perhaps both candidates and voters alike need to do a little further study before next November rolls around.