According to Newsweek, nearly half (or more) of atheists and agnostics do believe there is a spectrum. (Or maybe -- just maybe -- it's a shoddy poll that we take with a grain of salt.)
Question #12 in the poll asks what people belief when it comes to human creation/evolution. Here are the responses given by those that defined themselves as agnostic or atheist:
God had no part in the evolution of humans from lower life forms: 45%
God guided the process of evolution of humans from lower life forms: 27%
God created humans pretty much in the present form sometime in the last 10,000 years: 13%
Other/Don't know: 15%
Well, this is a little surprising. According to this poll, 40% of all agnostics and atheists believe that God created humans in one way or another. Would you be surprised if you found out that 40% of all members of the Democratic Party were Republicans? Me too. Would you be surprised in you found out that 40% of the population of Maine lived outside of Maine? Sure. Would you be surprised if 40% of photographers had never used a camera before? Yup. I think if the pollers had actually looked at this information, they would have begun to question the accuracy of their poll.
But the problems don't stop there. Can you see the problem with the phrasing of the question? I paraphrased it above, but here is the exact 'atheist answer':
Humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.The question doesn't even allow for the possible non-existance of God. It states that there is a God, but he just didn't happen to guide evolution. I suppose that makes this the 'deist answer.' Atheism simply isn't represented here. Does this remind anyone else of the Paula Zahn lets-talk-about-atheists-while-they're-not-here-to-defend-themselves episode? How are we supposed to answer that in a way that doesn't make it sound like we just don't know?
This is like presenting followers of Judaism with the question, "Which represents your point of view: when Jesus the son of God was resurrected and joined his Father in heaved he was: a) dead for exactly three days, and was lifted upwards through the clouds; b) dead for exactly three days, and disappeared in a flash of light; c) dead for an unknown period of time, and either flew upwards or disappeared wholly; or d) other/don't know." It's a loaded question. None of the answers match our point of view.
Fortunately there are plenty of other polls to look at. ARIS data from 2001 (with a data set 50 times larger than the Newsweek poll, I might add) used the term "no religion" to group atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists, and "no religion" respondants. This group came in with an impressive 14.1%! Even better, it nearly doubled from 8.2% in 1990 -- just 11 years!
ARIS also showed that some US states had as many as 25% of its population declare "no religion." Washington state was in the lead with the 25% number -- imagine living in a state with 1 out of every 4 people an atheist! USA Today has an interactive flash map of this data that shows the religious breakdown state-by-state. I never would have realized that "no religion" (me) outnumbered Baptist (my wife) in Kansas! In fact, in many states, "no religion" comes in second.
Another interesting tidbit in the ARIS data shows some validation to my observation that more people are switching to atheism that away from it. In the 2001 data, it shows that "no religion" had the highest of 22 groups of people that Switched In (in sheer number), and was the third highest in net gain (percentage). In sheer numbers, it's gaining members about six times as fast as it's losing them. (p. 25 in the PDF, p. 24 in the report)
The Pew Research Center, in a recent study, showed 12% of Americans as secular (which they define as atheist, agnostic, or no religion). This is up 4% in just the last 20 years. The same poll also shows slight downward trends over the last five years to the statement "I never doubt the existence of God."
Religious Tolerance summarizes the results of a USA Today/Gallup poll in Jan. 2002:
Almost half of American adults appear to be alienated from organized religion. If current trends continue, most adults will not call themselves religious within a few years.I think we can safely and happily ignore the Newsweek poll.