Only 6 in 10 Australians Know It Takes A Year For The Earth To Orbit The Sun

Only six in 10 Australians – and half of Australian women – know that the Earth takes a year to orbit the sun, a new survey by the Australian Academy of Science has found.

The survey involved 1515 respondents, approximately evenly split by gender and age. It was conducted in May, and follows a July 2010 AAS survey that produced similar results.

Australians were asked the following:

    • How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun?
      Is the following statement true or false? The earliest humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs.
      What percentage of the Earth’s surface is covered by water?
      What percentage of the Earth’s water is fresh water?
      Do you think that evolution is occurring?
      Do you think that humans are influencing the evolution of other species?
      In your opinion, how important is science education to the Australian economy?
  • More Australians incorrectly thought that the earliest humans co-existed with dinosaurs this year, compared to 2010 (73% vs 70%).

    And only 62% of 18-24 year olds knew that it took one year for the Earth to orbit the sun this year, compared to 74% in 2010.

    Here are the survey results:

    How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun?

    The proportion of Australians that correctly answered one year fell from 61% in 2010 to 59% this year.

    30% of Australians in think it takes one day for the Earth to orbit the Sun. 1% think it takes a week, and 2% think it takes a month.

    Men, younger people, and those with higher education levels were more likely to know the correct answer.

    Did humans co-exist with dinosaurs?

    More than 1 in 4 Australians (27%) incorrectly believe that the earliest humans live at the same time as dinosaurs, slightly down from 30% in 2010.

    AAS professor Les Field told the ABC that dinosaurs and humans missed each other by more than 60 million years and movies like Jurassic Park may be to blame for the misconception.

    What percentage of the Earth’s surface is covered by water?

    A vast majority of Australians believe that between 70-80% of the Earth's surface is covered in water. The correct answer is 70%.

    The answers given were virtually unchanged since 2010, the AAS found.

    What percentage of the Earth’s water is fresh water?

    A quarter of Australians were unsure about how much of the Earth's water is fresh. Only 9% knew that the correct answer is 3% - down from the 13% who gave the correct answer in 2010.

    Do you think evolution is occurring?

    9% of Australians do not believe in evolution, 10% say it isn't currently occurring, and 12% are not sure.

    In 2010, 71% of Australians said evolution was currently occurring, compared to 70% this year.

    Do you think that humans are influencing the evolution of other species?

    73% of Australians know that humans are influencing the evolution of other species, down from 77% in 2013. The greatest fall in knowledge was in the 18-24 age group (78% to 70%).

    People with higher education levels are more likely to agree that humans are influencing the evolution of other species.

    How important is science education to the Australian economy?

    79% of Australians say science education is absolutely essential to the Australian economy, almost the same proportion as in 2010. 2% of Australians in both surveys said science education was not at all important.

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