Oct 22, 2014 2:23 pm

Diwali, Hindu festival of lights, is celebrated by more than just Hindus

(Photo by Praveen Bajpai/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

This week marks Diwali, the annual Hindu festival of lights. In India and elsewhere, the joyous holiday – a major event that coincides with the new year on some calendars – is often marked by gifts of dried fruit and nuts and the lighting of fireworks, lamps and other lights.

In the U.S., seven-in-ten Indian Americans say they celebrate Diwali, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey of Asian Americans. This includes most Indian-American Hindus (95%) and nearly half of those who are not Hindus (45%).

That survey found that about half of Indian Americans (51%) identify as Hindus, while 5% identify as Sikhs and 2% as Jains (two other religious groups that also observe Diwali). Most of the rest are Christians (18%), Muslims (10%) or people unaffiliated with any religion (10%). Read More

Topics: Hindus and Hinduism, Religion and Society

Oct 22, 2014 7:00 am

Americans of all ages divided over doctor-assisted suicide laws

Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer, has gone public with her plans to take her own life soon after Oct. 26, her husband’s birthday; she is using her story to make the case for more widespread laws allowing doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. Maynard moved to Oregon, one of five states that allow the practice, in order to obtain medication for the purpose of ending her life.

A report issued by the Institute of Medicine (part of the National Academy of Sciences) last month called for an overhaul of end-of-life care nationwide, including, for example, a greater emphasis on advance care planning and Medicare funding for home health services. A chairman of the committee that conducted the study told The New York Times that “the current system is geared towards doing more, more, more, and that system by definition is not necessarily consistent with what patients want.”

Views on doctor-assisted suicide vary little by age groupA Pew Research Center survey conducted last year found that two-thirds of Americans say there are circumstances in which a patient should be allowed to die, as opposed to doctors and nurses always doing everything possible to save the life of a patient. But U.S. adults are more divided about laws that allow doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, with 47% in favor of such laws and 49% opposed. Views on doctor-assisted suicide are little changed since 2005.

While there are sizable differences in opinion on this issue by racial and ethnic group, religious group and political ideology, there are, at most, modest differences among different age groups. Maynard’s generation is no more supportive of such laws than are older Americans: 45% of those ages 18-29 approve of assisted-suicide laws, while 54% oppose them.

Read More

Topics: Health, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Oct 21, 2014 4:02 pm

Ebola ranks among highest in news interest since 2010

(Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

As news about Ebola dominates the airwaves and permeates midterm campaigns, Americans are following the ongoing story at historically high rates. About half of U.S. adults (49%) followed Ebola news very closely last week, elevating the story to our list of most-followed events since 2010.

Americans' interest in news coverage of Ebola ranks among the highest top stories since 2010 News interest in Ebola has grown substantially from when we first asked about the outbreak in early August. About one-in-four (26%) then said they were closely following news about the Ebola virus, which was limited to cases in Africa at the time.

In the past two years, the only news stories to exceed this level of attention were the Boston Marathon bombing (63%), the 2012 election (60%), the Newtown shooting (57%) and Hurricane Sandy (53%).

Looking at other dominant stories this year, 39% very closely followed news about missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March and 37% closely followed the beginning of airstrikes against ISIS in late September.

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Topics: News Interest

Oct 21, 2014 10:15 am

5 key takeaways on politics, media and polarization

Evidence of political polarization can be found in many aspects of American life. It’s not just about the public’s views on issues, but the way they use media (including social media) and talk about politics with other people, according to a new Pew Research Center data analysis drawn from a representative sample of online adults. While the most consistent liberals and conservatives both tend to drive broader political discussion, they do so with news and analyses drawn from very different segments of the media landscape.

Here are five key takeaways on polarization, media use and political conversation: Read More

Topics: News Sources, Political Polarization, Social Media

Oct 21, 2014 7:00 am

Q/A: How Pew Research analyzed America’s polarized media consumption habits

Amy Mitchell, Director of Journalism Research, Pew Research Center

America’s widening ideological divisions are showing up in more and more aspects of American life — from how likely people are to vote to where they want to live and what they want their children taught. And, as the latest report in the Pew Research Center’s year-long series on polarization makes clear, politics heavily influences people’s media habits as well: Americans on either end of the ideological spectrum get their news from very different sources.

We asked Amy Mitchell, the center’s Director of Journalism Research, to discuss how the new report was put together. Read More

Topics: News Audience Trends and Attitudes, News Media Sectors, Political Typology

Oct 20, 2014 4:20 pm

Debate over inequality highlights sharp partisan divisions on the issue

Some of the most contentious issues in American politics are the growing gap between rich and poor, the cause of such inequality and what to do about it. Republicans and Democrats have sharply differing views on the topic. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen put inequality back in the news last week when she addressed the subject in a speech.

FT_GOP_PoorNot quite half (46%) of the American public sees the gap between the rich and the poor in the United States as a very big problem for the country, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Another 32% regard it as a moderately big problem, while 20% say it’s a small problem or no problem at all.

But those overall numbers mask an ideological divide. Fully 59% of Democrats voice the view that inequality is a major national economic challenge, as do 49% of independents. But only 19% of Republicans agree.

Read More

Topics: Economic Policy, Economics and Personal Finances, Income Inequality, Socioeconomic Class

Oct 16, 2014 12:01 pm

What is the greatest threat to the world? Depends on where you live

2014 has been a tumultuous year in international affairs. From the conflict in Ukraine, to horrific bloodshed in Syria and Iraq, the spreading Ebola epidemic in West Africa and continued weakness in the European economy, numerous world crises have given people plenty to be worried about.

In spring of this year, even before many of these headline events took place, we surveyed people in 44 countries and asked about the greatest threat to the world. Here are 5 key takeaways from the new report:

1 Infectious disease, AIDS, top concerns in Sub-Saharan Africa

Africans Fear AIDS and DiseasePrior to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa becoming a high-profile international story, a median of 32% across the seven African nations polled feared infectious disease as the top danger. Many of these countries have high prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS and have suffered through multiple disease epidemics in the last decade. However, other problems also worry Africans. In Nigeria, where religious strife is exacerbated by the Boko Haram terrorist group, more say religious and ethnic hatred is the world’s greatest threat (38%). Read More

Topics: Energy and Environment, Health, International Threats and Allies, Nuclear Threats, Religion and Society

Oct 16, 2014 7:00 am

Young U.S. Catholics overwhelmingly accepting of homosexuality

Younger US Catholics more accepting of homosexualityThe Roman Catholic Church signaled a more accepting stance toward gay people in a report bishops released during the Vatican’s synod on the family this week. While reaffirming the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, the report said that “homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community” and asked if the church is capable of “welcoming these people.”

The new document follows Pope Francis’ more inclusive language regarding homosexuality and has been praised by gay rights groups for its “dramatic new tone.” The report also moves the church toward a position on homosexuality already embraced by a majority of American Catholics, particularly younger adults.

Fully 85% of self-identified Catholics ages 18-29 said in a 2014 Pew Research Center survey that homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared with just 13% who said it should be discouraged. Older age groups are less likely to favor acceptance. But even among Catholics ages 65 and older, 57% say that homosexuality should be accepted.

Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality

Oct 15, 2014 3:27 pm

Romney (again) in 2016? That would be unusual, but not unprecedented

FT_14.10.15_alsoRans

There’s increasing speculation that Mitt Romney — who, you recall, lost the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and then won it four years later, only to lose in the general election to Barack Obama — may be at least considering the possibility of another run in 2016. Fueling the chatter was a recent Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll that found Romney faring best of seven potential Republican nominees among Iowa voters in hypothetical matchups against Hillary Clinton. (Although Romney’s wife, Ann, told the Los Angeles Times that “[n]ot only Mitt and I are done [with campaigning], but the kids are done. Done. Done. Done.”)  Read More

Topics: Elections and Campaigns

Oct 15, 2014 7:00 am

Gay marriage arrives in the South, where the public is less enthused

Regional Support, Gay Marriage 2014The Supreme Court’s recent decision not to take up several same-sex marriage cases has led to several more states legalizing gay marriage. And for the first time, much of this expansion of same-sex marriage is occurring in the South – including Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina – where public support for allowing gays and lesbians to wed is not as great as in other regions.

Nationwide, 52% of Americans now support gay marriage. In the South, aggregated Pew Research Center polls from 2014 have found that 44% of people support gay marriage – well below the East (61%), West (58%) and Midwest (52%).

Our polling data can be further analyzed by dividing each of the four major regions into smaller subregions. For example, in the South Atlantic region – which comprises Florida and Georgia as well as North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, four states that either recently legalized gay marriage or are likely to do so soon – respondents in 2014 are divided over same-sex marriage, with 45% in favor and 46% opposed.

Read More

Topics: Gay Marriage and Homosexuality