My first reaction to this poll is to think that there's something in the question itself skewing the results. It has been shown time and time again that the phrasing of a poll question can dramatically change the results.
Certainly most Americans believe that God guided human evolution . . . so that kind of belief is getting mixed into these results. So let's look at the exact question asked by Gallup:
So, lets look at the answer 46% of American respondents gave:
God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.Again:
. . . within the last 10,000 years or so . . .So, ok, this isn't some polling error. This is the response people gave. 46% of people asked feel that people were created in their current form sometime after the oldest cave paintings, or petroglyphs.
My second reaction to this poll is to wonder who these people are. Where are these 46%? It accents to me exactly how insulated I am from a huge portion of American culture. I just don't regularly encounter nearly half of the people who live in this country. At least I hope I don't, because I would not hesitate at a dinner party conversation about politics or science to openly state that creationism is a preposterous position. Apparently I would be insulting 4-5 out of every 10 people.
My final reaction is to tell myself that many of these respondents are just defying the position they are "supposed" to have. So that this response is more about defying authority than it is about actual ignorance on the topic.
It's not a good choice. Either a huge portion of the population is amazingly ignorant about basic human history, or a huge portion of the population feels a desire to express ignorance as a way to say 'you can't tell me what to think' to scientists and pointy headed intellectual liberals.
The Catholic Church embraced evolution as part of God's grand plan in 1996, the end of a road started in 1950. It amazes me that the American populace can't seem to catch up.