Aug 1, 2014 9:00 am

The political middle still matters

While increased polarization among Republicans and Democrats at both ends of the ideological spectrum has created a sense of unending gridlock in Washington, the parties face a different kind of challenge in the upcoming midterm elections and beyond: how to appeal to the majority of Americans who are somewhere in the political middle.

Between the polarized ideological wings on the left and right in the political parties, there is still a sizable middle that is diverse in its views.The recent Pew Research Center survey on polarization in U.S. politics drew a lot of attention to the fact that the bases of each party were more divided along ideological lines than at any point in the last two decades. But, as it has always been, it is still the political middle that determines elections, even in this polarized era.

About 43% of registered voters can be identified as belonging to voting blocs that were “strongly ideological,” with 27% at the strongly conservative end of the spectrum and 17% being solid liberals, according to our political typology study, a follow-up to the polarization report.

But neither party has a base big enough to win national elections without broadening its appeal to the 57% of the electorate who are less partisan and less predictable.

The Typology survey laid out the challenges in doing so this way: “The political landscape includes a center that is large and diverse, unified by frustration with politics and little else. As a result, both parties face formidable challenges in reaching beyond their bases to appeal to the middle of the electorate and build sustainable coalitions.”

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Topics: Political Party Affiliation, Political Polarization, Political Typology, U.S. Political Parties

Aug 1, 2014 7:00 am

Chart of the Week: Which states have the most nurses, and where are they paid the most?

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As anyone who’s looked for a job lately knows, there’s no single U.S. labor market but rather a collection of local ones. Occupations that are in high demand in, say, Denver might be oversupplied in Birmingham, or vice versa — and they almost certainly won’t pay the same. But while this might make sense intuitively, it’s hard to visualize just how different one place’s job market is from another.

Which is what makes this chart, from the folks at FlowingData, so impressive — it not only elegantly presents several dimensions of data but easily enables state-by-state comparisons. It shows hundreds of different occupations, organized into 22 major sectors, drawn from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the interactive version, hovering over any square tells you the estimated employment and median annual salary for that occupation; adjust the slider on top and the chart shows which occupations have median salaries above that level.

That’s plenty cool on its own, but switch states via the drop-down box and the boxes grow and shrink proportionally to each occupation’s share of the state’s overall employment base. You can see instantly how important the transportation and production sectors are in Indiana, or how few computer and mathematical jobs there are in Mississippi. You can also see how dominant such high-paying sectors as business, management and legal are in D.C., while Floridians largely work in lower-paying office/administrative jobs or in sales, food service or building-maintenance jobs.

This sort of thing could occupy a curious person for hours. Which state has a relatively bigger farming/fishing/forestry sector — California or Iowa? The answer might surprise you.

Category: Chart of the Week

Topics: National Economy, Work and Employment

Jul 31, 2014 1:18 pm

Congress continues its streak of passing few significant laws

CongressProductivity_July2014Congress this week scrambled to finish several pieces of business, from increasing aid to Israel to addressing the child-migrant crisis and patching the Highway Trust Fund, before leaving Washington for its scheduled August recess. But being out of town may not noticeably affect Congress’ legislative productivity.

As of Wednesday the current Congress had enacted 142 laws, the fewest of any Congress in the past two decades over an equivalent timespan. And only 108 of those enactments were substantive pieces of legislation, under our deliberately broad criteria (no post-office renamings, anniversary commemorations or other purely ceremonial laws). That’s two fewer than the previous Congress — itself not generally considered a model of productivity — had managed by this point in 2012. (As The Washington Post recently pointed out, Congress has a long history of dithering and squabbling rather than legislating during the dog days of summer.) Read More

Topics: Congress

Jul 31, 2014 9:57 am

Americans divided on how the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution

Star Ideological Divide in Constitutional InterpretationDemocrats and Republicans remain deeply divided about how the U.S. Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center. And there are many differences across demographic groups – especially when it comes to religious affiliation.

About half of the public (49%) say the decisions of the Supreme Court should be based on its understanding of what the Constitution “means in current times,” while roughly as many (46%) say decisions should be based on what the Constitution “meant as it was originally written.”

But Republicans—by more than two-to-one (69% to 29%)—say the justices should base their rulings on the Constitution’s original meaning rather than on what it means in current times. Democratic opinion goes the other way: 70% say the court should base its rulings on an understanding of the Constitution’s meaning in current times (26% say rulings should be based on the document’s original meaning).  Read More

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Religion and Government, Supreme Court

Jul 30, 2014 2:43 pm

Support for Turkey’s Erdogan drops sharply in Middle East

FT_erdogan-views-mideastWith a presidential election just over a week away, a new survey finds that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s support has declined sharply in his home country and around the Middle East. Over a year after protests rocked Istanbul and other major cities in Turkey, the survey also finds many Turks disapprove of Erdogan’s handling of them. The anti-government demonstrations were in response to plans to build Ottoman-style military barracks with a shopping mall and luxury hotels within Gezi Park, a popular green space in Istanbul.

In Turkey, only about half (51%) have a positive view of their prime minister, down 11 percentage points from 2013. In all, 55% disapprove of his handling of Gezi Park protests, while just 37% approve. Despite all this, Erdogan is a heavy favorite going into next month’s presidential election because of strong support from his dominant Justice and Development Party (AKP) and a long record of economic growth in Turkey. Read More

Topics: Middle East and North Africa

Jul 30, 2014 10:11 am

ASNE: Two-thirds of U.S. newspapers employ women in top editing jobs

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of U.S. newspapers had at least one woman in their top three editing positions in 2013, according to the new annual census from the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), using 2013 data. Nearly half the papers responding (49%) said that one of those top editors was a woman, 12% employed two women in those top slots and 2% reported that all three top editors were women.

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The year 2013 was another gloomy year for newspaper women and men. The overall count of full-time daily newspaper staffers dropped to about 36,700 from about 38,000 last year — down about 3%. If there is a silver lining, it is that the rate of job loss slowed from the previous year, when it was down about 6%. The high-water mark for the ASNE census was 56,900 full-time newsroom staffers in 1989 — fully 20,000 more than today. This year marks the first time that ASNE has tried to identify women in the very top tier of newspaper leadership. And it comes in the wake of the firing earlier this year of the nation’s most prominent female editor — Jill Abramson of The New York Times — for issues related to “management in the newsroom.” (She was succeeded by an African-American, Dean Baquet; 15% of the papers surveyed told ASNE they had a minority journalist in one of the three top editing jobs.) Read More

Topics: Newspapers

Jul 29, 2014 1:29 pm

PAA journal: Parents of better-educated kids live longer

Credit: istockphoto
Credit: istockphoto

Still another reason to send your children to college: You’ll live longer.

At least that’s what sociologists Esther M. Friedman and Robert D. Mare found when they examined the association between how far a child goes in school and how long their parents live.

Writing in the latest issue of the journal Demography, published by The Population Association of America (PAA), Friedman and Mare found that parents of college graduates lived about two years longer on average than those whose children didn’t graduate from high school. Read More

Topics: Education, Health

Jul 29, 2014 7:00 am

Hispanics split on how to address surge in Central American child migrants

Hispanics views of children immigrants, ObamaHispanics in the U.S. are divided on how to deal with the thousands of Central American children illegally arriving in the country, according to a Pew Research survey conducted earlier this month.  About as many Hispanics support the current system for deciding immigration cases as do those expediting the process (49% – 47%), which would have the effect of speeding up deportations.

The split among Hispanics is in contrast to views of the overall public, which backs a faster process over the current policy by 53% to 39%.

Under current practice, it can take months or even years before the children are processed through the U.S. immigration system and either given asylum (or other legal status) or ordered deported. President Obama has asked for $3.7 billion in emergency funds, in part to help shorten the legal process by providing more judges. Meanwhile, the Senate and House are considering legislation of their own to deal with the issue. Read More

Topics: Hispanic/Latino Vote, Immigration, Immigration Attitudes, Unauthorized Immigration

Jul 28, 2014 4:08 pm

Q/A: What the New York Times’ polling decision means

The New York Times and CBS News made big news in the polling world this weekend when they announced that they will begin using online survey panels from YouGov as part of their election coverage. YouGov, a U.K.-based research firm founded in 2000, uses such panels rather than traditional telephone surveys; the panel the Times and CBS are using has more than 100,000 members. The Times, citing concerns about the dearth of high-quality, non-partisan survey data, particularly at the state level, says it plans to include YouGov results as part of “a diverse suite of surveys employing diverse methodologies.”

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Scott Keeter, the Pew Research Center’s director of survey research

While panels have long been used by market researchers, they’re relatively new in the opinion-research field, and views on them are sharply divided. We asked Scott Keeter, the Pew Research Center’s director of survey research, to explain the issues at stake and give us his preliminary thoughts.

What’s different about the YouGov panel surveys from the surveys previously used by the Times, CBS and Pew Research?

There are two big differences. One is that these are conducted entirely online, among internet users. People who don’t use the internet aren’t included (more on this below). The other – and arguably the biggest — difference is that the samples for these surveys are selected using so-called non-probability sampling methods. For decades, only probability – or random – samples have been generally accepted as a scientific way to produce accurate, representative samples for surveys.

Explain the difference between a probability and a non-probability sample.

The American Association for Public Opinion Research, the leading association of survey research professionals, has explained it well. Here’s how their Task Force on Non-Probability Sampling put it in their major report last year: “In a probability sample, everyone in the population of interest (e.g., all registered voters in a political poll) has a chance of being selected for an interview. Knowing those chances is critical to creating valid statistical estimates.” Non-probability samples, in contrast, “are those in which the participants are chosen or choose themselves so that the chance of being selected is not known.” Read More

Topics: Polling, Research Methodology

Jul 28, 2014 1:31 pm

Where refugees to the U.S. come from

FT_14.07.28_RefugeeImmigration

In response to the recent surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America, the Obama administration is considering executive action to create a refugee resettlement center in Honduras. According to data from the Department of State’s Refugee Processing Center, more than 3 million refugees have arrived in the United States since 1975.

A look at the makeup of where refugees come from and their number provides a glimpse into global events and the U.S.’s role in providing a safe haven for people around the world. Most of today’s refugees are from Burma (Myanmar) and Iraq. The U.S. admitted fewer refugees in the wake of the terrorist attacks in 2001, but the total annual number of refugees has trended upward since then. Read More

Topics: Immigration, Wars and International Conflicts