Feb 15, 2019 11:00 am

The changing face of Congress in 6 charts

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are sworn in during the Jan. 3 opening session of the 116th Congress. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The 116th U.S. Congress took office in January, with Democrats taking control of the House while Republicans maintain an edge in the Senate.

Apart from its political makeup, the new Congress differs from prior ones in other ways, including its demographics. Here are six charts that show how Congress has changed over time, using historical data from CQ Roll Call, the Brookings Institution, the Congressional Research Service and other sources.

1Growing racial and ethnic diversity in CongressThe current Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse ever. Nonwhites – including blacks, Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans – now account for 22% of Congress, including a quarter of the House and 9% of the Senate. By comparison, when the 79th Congress took office in 1945, nonwhites represented just 1% of the House and Senate.

Despite this growing racial and ethnic diversity, Congress still lags the nation as a whole: The share of nonwhites in the United States is nearly double that of the country’s legislative body (39% vs. 22%).

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Topics: Congress, Federal Government, Demographics

Feb 14, 2019 12:08 pm

More people around the world see U.S. power and influence as a ‘major threat’ to their country

A growing share of people around the world see U.S. power and influence as a “major threat” to their country, and these views are linked with attitudes toward President Donald Trump and the United States as a whole, according to Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 22 nations since 2013.

As confidence in president, favorable views of America have declined, more see U.S. power as a 'major threat'A median of 45% across the surveyed nations see U.S. power and influence as a major threat, up from 38% in the same countries during Trump’s first year as president in 2017 and 25% in 2013, during the administration of Barack Obama. The long-term increase in the share of people who see American power as a threat has occurred alongside declines in the shares of people who say they have confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing regarding world affairs and who have a favorable view of the United States. (For more about global views toward the U.S. president and the country he leads, see “Trump’s International Ratings Remain Low, Especially Among Key Allies.”)

Despite these changes, U.S. power and influence still ranks below other perceived threats around the world. Considerably larger shares of people point to global climate change (seen as a major threat by a median of 67%), the Islamic militant group known as ISIS (cited by 62%) and cyberattacks (cited by 61%). U.S. power and influence, in fact, is not seen as the top threat in any of the countries surveyed.

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Topics: U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism, Country Image, Donald Trump

Feb 13, 2019 3:00 pm

8 facts about love and marriage in America

(Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The landscape of relationships in America has shifted dramatically in recent decades. From cohabitation to same-sex marriage to interracial and interethnic marriage, here are eight facts about love and marriage in the United States.

1Half of Americans ages 18 and older were married in 2017, a share that has remained relatively stable in recent years but is down 8 percentage points since 1990. One factor driving this change is that Americans are staying single longer. The median age at first marriage had reached its highest point on record: 30 years for men and 28 years for women in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As the U.S. marriage rate has declined, divorce rates have increased among older Americans. In 2015, for every 1,000 married adults ages 50 and older, 10 had divorced – up from five in 1990. Among those ages 65 and older, the divorce rate roughly tripled since 1990.

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Lifestyle, Family and Relationships, Marriage and Divorce

Feb 13, 2019 7:00 am

7 things we’ve learned about computer algorithms

(Degui Adil/EyeEm via Getty Images)

Algorithms are all around us, using massive stores of data and complex analytics to make decisions with often significant impacts on humans – from choosing the content people see on social media to judging whether a person is a good credit risk or job candidate. Pew Research Center released several reports in 2018 that explored the role and meaning of algorithms in people’s lives today. Here are some of the key themes that emerged from that research.

1Algorithmically generated content platforms play a prominent role in Americans’ information diets. Sizable shares of U.S. adults now get news on sites like Facebook or YouTube that use algorithms to curate the content they show to their users. A study by the Center found that 81% of YouTube users say they at least occasionally watch the videos suggested by the platform’s recommendation algorithm, and that these recommendations encourage users to watch progressively longer content as they click through the videos suggested by the site.

2Many Facebook users say they do not know the platform classifies their interests, and roughly half are not comfortable with being categorizedThe inner workings of even the most common algorithms can be confusing to users. Facebook is among the most popular social media platforms, but roughly half of Facebook users – including six-in-ten users ages 50 and older – say they do not understand how the site’s algorithmically generated news feed selects which posts to show them. And around three-quarters of Facebook users are not aware that the site automatically estimates their interests and preferences based on their online behaviors in order to deliver them targeted advertisements and other content.

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Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Science and Innovation, Future of the Internet

Feb 12, 2019 12:31 pm

As elections near, Nigerians view their country’s economy and political system negatively

Supporters of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress party cheer as President Muhammadu Buhari’s convoy leaves a campaign rally in Lagos on Feb. 9. (Stefan Heunis/AFP/Getty Images)

Nigeria will be holding presidential and parliamentary elections against a backdrop of negative sentiment in the country about the state of the economy and political system. These attitudes were evident in a Pew Research Center survey conducted in the summer of 2018.

Nigeria is home to the largest population in Africa, which is almost evenly split between Muslims and Christians. Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will be running against multiple candidates including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), John Gbor of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Usman Muhammed of the Labour Party (LP) and others. Tensions in the country have grown in the final weeks before elections because of Buhari’s controversial decision to suspend the country’s chief justice.

These five charts capture the Nigerian public’s mood about the state of their nation and the differing attitudes of the Muslim and Christian populations.

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Topics: International Governments and Institutions, Sub-Saharan Africa, Political Attitudes and Values

Feb 12, 2019 7:00 am

Once a majority, Protestants now account for fewer than a third of Germans

German churchgoers attend a service marking the anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Germany is the birthplace of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, but since the middle of the 20th century, the country has seen a dramatic shift away from Protestantism – one that has greatly outpaced a decline in the share of Germans who are Catholic.

Protestants represented a majority (59%) of Germany’s population in 1950, with Catholics as a sizable minority (37%), according to research by Detlef Pollack and Olaf Müller, scholars of religion and sociology at the University of Münster in Germany. These shares are largely based on church membership rolls that include both children and adults. Over the next 60 years, the share of Protestants fell 30 percentage points, while the share of Catholics dropped 7 points. Each group now includes roughly three-in-ten Germans, based on 2010 membership data.

Germany's share of Protestants has decreased at a faster rate than CatholicsDeclines in the shares of Protestants and Catholics have been accompanied by a rising share of the religiously unaffiliated, who accounted for 30% of Germans in 2010, up from fewer than 4% in 1950. And recent research indicates that the share of Muslims in Germany also has been growing in recent years, due in large part to immigration.

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Topics: Western Europe, Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Religious Affiliation, Europe

Feb 11, 2019 1:00 pm

For Darwin Day, 6 facts about the evolution debate

Photograph of Charles Darwin by Maull and Polyblank for the Literary and Scientific Portrait Club (1855) via Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday is the 210th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, a day now celebrated by some as Darwin Day. Darwin is best known for his theory of evolution through natural selection. When Darwin’s work was first made public in 1859, it shocked Britain’s religious establishment. And while today it is accepted by virtually all scientists, evolutionary theory still is rejected by many Americans, often because it conflicts with their religious beliefs about divine creation.

While not an official holiday, Darwin Day has been adopted by scientific and humanist groups to promote everything from scientific literacy to secularism. This year, dozens of events have been planned worldwide, many of them anchored by scientific talks or symposiums.

To mark the occasion, here are six facts about the public’s views on evolution, as well as other aspects of the debate in the U.S. and elsewhere:

1Roughly eight-in-ten U.S. adults (81%) say humans have evolved over time, according to data from a new Pew Research Center study. This includes one-third of all Americans (33%) who say that humans evolved due to processes like natural selection with no involvement by God or a higher power, along with 48% who believe human evolution occurred through processes guided or allowed by God or a higher power. The same survey found that 18% of Americans reject evolution entirely, saying humans have always existed in their present form. (See the full report for a deeper look at the ways question wording and format can affect survey results on evolution.)

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Religion and Society, Evolution, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Science and Innovation

Feb 11, 2019 7:00 am

About a third of Americans say blackface in a Halloween costume is acceptable at least sometimes

A slight majority of Americans (53%) think it is generally unacceptable for a white person to use makeup to darken their skin to appear to be a different race as part of a Halloween costume, including 37% who say this is never acceptable. About one-in-three (34%) say this is always or sometimes acceptable, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

The survey was conducted almost entirely before news broke about Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and other high-profile politicians who have been accused of wearing blackface as part of costumes when they were younger.

White adults twice as likely as blacks to say using blackface for a Halloween costume is acceptableWhite adults are about twice as likely as black adults to say the use of blackface as part of a Halloween costume can be acceptable: 39% of whites hold this view vs. 19% of blacks. Hispanics fall in the middle, with 28% saying this is always or sometimes acceptable.

18- to 29-year-olds are least likely among whites to see blackface as acceptableAmong whites, those younger than 30 are far less accepting of the use of blackface. About a quarter of younger whites (27%) say it is at least sometimes acceptable for a white person to use makeup to darken their skin to appear to be a different race as part of a Halloween costume, but about two-thirds say this is rarely (23%) or never (41%) acceptable. Older whites are more divided, with roughly four-in-ten of those ages 30 and older saying this is acceptable at least sometimes, and about half or fewer in each group saying this is rarely or never acceptable.

Acceptance of blackface also is more common among whites without a college degree. While 44% of whites with some college or less education say this is always or sometimes acceptable, 28% of whites with at least a bachelor’s degree say the same.

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Topics: Race and Ethnicity

Feb 8, 2019 7:00 am

For the fifth time in a row, the new Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse ever

Democratic Reps. Terri Sewell of Alabama, Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, Carolyn Maloney of New York and other members of the 116th Congress pose for a selfie with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 4. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

More than one-in-five voting members (22%) of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are racial or ethnic minorities, making the 116th Congress the most racially and ethnically diverse in history. There has been a long-running trend toward more racial and ethnic diversity on Capitol Hill: Each of the previous four Congresses broke the record set by the Congress before it.

Growing racial and ethnic diversity in CongressOverall, 116 lawmakers today are nonwhite (including blacks, Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans), according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Congressional Research Service. This represents an 84% increase over the 107th Congress of 2001-03, which had 63 minority members.

Although recent Congresses have continued to set new highs for racial and ethnic diversity, they have still been disproportionately white when compared with the overall U.S. population. Nonwhites make up 39% of the nation’s population, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates. (For this analysis, Hispanics are included in the Census Bureau estimates for the share of each racial minority group in the overall population.)

In the House of Representatives, however, some racial and ethnic groups are now on par with their share of the total population. For example, 12% of House members are black, about equal to the share of Americans who are black. And Native Americans now make up 1% of the House, equal to their 1% of the population.

Other nonwhite groups in the House are somewhat less represented relative to their share of the population. The share of Hispanics in the U.S. population (18%) is twice as high as it is in the House (9%). Asians account for 6% of the national population but 3% of House members.

The increase in minority representation in the House has largely come among newly elected Democrats. Of the 22 freshman representatives who are nonwhite, just one is a Republican (Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, who is Hispanic).

Nine senators are a racial or ethnic minority, unchanged from the 115th Congress. Four senators are Hispanic, three are Asian and three are black. (Kamala Harris, D-Calif., is black and Asian). There are no nonwhite freshman senators.

In the full 116th Congress, the overwhelming majority of racial and ethnic nonwhite members are Democrats (90%), while just 10% are Republicans.

Whites make up larger share of Congress than of U.S. populationNon-Hispanic whites make up 78% of voting members in the new Congress, considerably larger than their 61% share of the U.S. population overall. And despite the growing racial and ethnic diversity of Congress, this gap has widened over time: In 1981, 94% of Congress was white, compared with 80% of the U.S. population.

This analysis includes a few members who are counted under more than one racial or ethnic identity. In addition to Harris, Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va., is counted as both black and Asian. Reps. Antonio Delgado and Adriano Espaillat, both New York Democrats, are listed as black and Hispanic. Espaillat, the first Dominican American elected to Congress, self-identifies as a Latino of African descent. Portuguese American members are not included in the Hispanic count. In addition, one disputed seat in the House – North Carolina’s 9th District – is not included in the total number of voting seats.

Note: For analyses of previous Congresses, see our earlier posts:

115th Congress sets new high for racial, ethnic diversity

114th Congress is the most diverse ever

Topics: Congress, Federal Government, Race and Ethnicity

Feb 7, 2019 2:30 pm

More Republicans say stricter environmental regulations are ‘worth the cost’

Majority of Americans say stricter environmental laws are 'worth the cost'The share of Americans who say stricter environmental laws and regulations are “worth the cost” has ticked up in recent years, with a significant shift coming among Republicans.

Today, 63% of U.S. adults say stricter environmental regulations are “worth the cost,” while 30% say such regulations “cost too many jobs and hurt the economy,” according to a new survey by Pew Research Center. Two years ago, the balance of opinion was narrower, as 59% said stricter environmental regulations were worth the cost, while 37% said they cost too many jobs.

Partisanship continues to be a major factor in opinions about tougher environmental laws, with Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents far more likely than Republicans and GOP leaners to view stricter laws and regulations as worth the cost.

But since 2017, the share of Republicans who take a positive view of stricter environmental laws has increased, from 36% then to 45% today. There has been little change in Democrats’ views in this period (77% then, 81% now).

Still, Republicans remain less supportive of stricter environmental laws and regulations than they were during the 1990s and much of the 2000s. In 2007, for example, 58% of Republicans said they were worth the cost.

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Topics: Energy and Environment, U.S. Political Parties, Political Attitudes and Values