“Just 66 percent of millennials firmly believe that the Earth is round,” read the summary from the pollster YouGov. Kids today, right? But it’s not only curmudgeons eager to complain about the younger generation who ought to find the survey of interest. For despite the recent prominence of flat-earthery among musicians and athletes, YouGov’s survey seems to have been the first systematic attempt to assess the American population’s views on the shape of the Earth.
Moreover, the results raised a number of compelling questions that deserve attention. For example, why is the scientifically established view on the shape of the Earth less popular among younger respondents (according to YouGov) when the scientifically established view on the history of life and on the cause of global warming have been, in poll after poll, more popular among younger respondents?
So, anyone concerned about the understanding and acceptance of science in contemporary society—like us, a psychology professor at the Air Force Academy and a long-time staffer at the National Center for Science Education—might be expected to be fascinated by the YouGov survey. Unfortunately, when we investigated the details, the result was as much confusion as clarity and as many questions as answers.