December 22, 2014

14 striking findings from 2014

In 2014, Pew Research Center published more than 150 reports (not to mention, some 600 blog posts) covering a wide range of topics — including demographic change, media habits, technology adoption, religious affiliation, and public opinion in the U.S. and worldwide. Here are 14 facts we found particularly striking, as they illustrate some major shifts in our politics, society, habits or families.

1Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in the last two decades: 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat; and, conversely, 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican.

Political Polarization

2The earnings gap between young adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher and those without has never been greater in the modern era, despite soaring student debt and high youth unemployment. In 1979, when the first wave of Baby Boomers were the same age that Millennials are today, the typical high school graduate earned about three-quarters (77%) of what a college graduate made. Today, Millennials with only a high school diploma earn 62% of what the typical college graduate earns.

Earnings, College Degree, Millennials

3After decades of declining marriage rates and changes in family structure, the share of American adults who have never been married is at an historic high. In 2012, one-in-five adults ages 25 and older had never been married. Men are more likely than women to have never been married. And this gender gap has widened since 1960.

4Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the public thinks religion is losing influence in American life, up from 52% who said so in 2002; and most people who say religion’s influence is waning see this as a bad thing. Perhaps as a consequence, a growing share say religion should play a role in politics.

5The Great Recession was hard on all American families. But even as the economic recovery has begun to mend asset prices, not all households have benefited alike, and wealth inequality has widened along racial and ethnic lines. The median wealth of white households was 13 times the wealth of black households and 10 times that of Hispanic households in 2013, compared with eight and nine times the wealth in 2010, respectively.

Racial, Ethnic Wealth Gaps

6Americans are now more attached to their cellphones and internet access than their televisions or landline telephones, marking a shift in their communications habits since 2006. Over half of internet users now say the internet would be “very hard” to give up. And among this devoted group, 61% say the internet is essential to them, either for work or other reasons. Translated to the whole population, 39% of all Americans feel they absolutely need to have internet access.

7While privacy issues continue to pervade public policy debates — after recent hacking incidents and amid the emergence of tech products that use consumer tracking data — 91% of Americans agree or strongly agree that consumers have lost control over how their personal information is collected and used by private companies.

Views of Privacy

8The American public appears ready for a truce in the long-running war on drugs: 67% say the government should focus more on providing treatment for those who use illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine, while just 26% think the government’s focus should be on prosecuting drug users. And nearly two-to-one say it is a good thing, not a bad thing, that some states have moved away from mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

War on Drugs Public Opinion

9When it comes to getting news about politics and government, liberals and conservatives inhabit different worlds: Consistent conservatives are tightly clustered around a single news source, with 47% citing Fox News as their main source for news about government and politics, while consistent liberals name a few main news sources.

Top News Sources

10Major shifts continue to pressure America’s news businesses, as new organizations struggle to find a profitable model that increasingly depends on digital audiences and new revenue streams. Our State of the Media report found that there are 468 digital news outlets employing nearly 5,000 journalists. Even so, overall revenue for the news media industry has declined by one-third since 2006.

news revenue declines

11Immigration policy debates continue to roil Congress and Washington, with Obama’s recent executive action likely to affect millions of unauthorized immigrants. While the population growth of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. has stabilized, there’s been a sharp increase in the median length of time they have lived here. The typical unauthorized immigrant adult has now been in the U.S. for nearly 13 years, up from 7.4 years in 1995.

Unauthorized Immigrants Staying in U.S. for Longer

12Economies worldwide are still struggling to recover from the 2008 global financial crisis, and growth overall has been lackluster, especially in Europe. But life is improving in some places more than others. People in emerging markets now rival those in advanced economies in their self-reported well-being: A median of 51% in emerging markets now say they are satisfied with their lives, an increase of 18 points since 2007.

Life Satisfaction in Emerging Markets


13The world’s aging population, especially in developed nations, has become a focus of concern, for the global economy and policy decisions related to social programs. By 2050, the majority of people in Japan, South Korea and Germany are projected to be older than 50. Brazil and Mexico, which now have a younger population than the U.S., will potentially have an older one than the U.S. by the middle of this century.

global aging populations us japan south korea

14Two years ago, Pew Research Center chronicled the rise of Americans who say they don’t have any religious affiliation. This year, we found another big trend in religion: an exodus among Catholics from the church in Latin America, where nearly 40% of the world’s total Catholic population lives. Identification with Catholicism has declined throughout the region, as many Latin Americans have joined evangelical Protestant churches or rejected organized religion altogether.

Topics: Demographics, News Sources, Technology Adoption, Religious Affiliation, World Economies, Polling

  1. is an associate digital producer at Pew Research Center.


  1. Gary2 years ago

    I’ve been saying #9 for years. Most Republican people use Fixed News as their only source of info in a debate or arguement. Amazing to me.

  2. Juan3 years ago

    Wow, post V2 was a real springtime for the church

  3. Jim Phillips3 years ago

    The real use of digital sources for information is/was not well covered. Does the younger generation (Millennials) really depend on digital sources for information? I don’t think so. I don’t think there are enoungh sources available nor are those available really used. Paper sources have gone downhill, but are still used.
    The TV stations that are available to me that carry news (I live in Southwest Colorado which is only served by Albequeque /misspelled/. In my opinion they concentrate on local crimes and politics. It is terribles!

  4. Ender’s Shadow3 years ago

    LOVE the data – thanks very much; keep up the good work. I find the continuing overlap of Democrats and Republicans amazing; it’s a fascinating feature of the American political system that sets it apart from other democracies.

    I was disappointed at the lack of points on the graph of religious affiliation in South America; the 45 year gap makes it hard to know whether the trends are accelerating or tailing off.

  5. Joie Jameson Lech3 years ago

    Surprised @ the rate of Catholic drops in past years in So. Am.
    Consider myself a RECOVERING CATHOLIC~Rome~wake up???

    JOIE JAMESON,R.N. (or U have contact)

    1. Alan3 years ago

      I find that term “recovering Catholic” a very offensive term to me and any practising Catholic. You either are or are not a Roman Catholic, lose your baggage.

  6. Martha Neff-Smith3 years ago

    I love reading Pew Research. Thank you for the diversity and depth!

  7. TOM FERRARA3 years ago

    Why don’t you flat out ask the responders to your reports to either agree with legalizing all immigrants or say no to illegal immigrants getting legalization? I believe the majority would say no legalization. The President keeps lying to the public about this issue, as he lies about everything else. He is correct in part of what he says about this being a country of immigrants but leaves out the fact that for years the immigrants came into this country the correct way and waited their turn. The illegals came in over or under the border wall. The old immigrants learned to speak English as fast as they could where as today everything is listed in a number of foreign languages and they are not required to speak English. This is a travesty.
    Thank you

    1. Gerben Hellinga2 years ago

      Obama lies about ‘everything else’? Wow, you really know what you are talking about, don’t you? Do you seriously think that comments like that will be taken seriously?

  8. Joe Rogers3 years ago

    The gaps in black/hispanic compared to white wealth seems to be shown on a distorted scale where the difference between $100k and $1m is shown as the same size as the difference between $100k and $10k. This representation underreports just how poorly blacks and Hispanics have fared post 2008, which I believe is a direct result of a backlash against the election of Obama. In the ACA debates, I had read of more than one (presumedly white) employer threaten retribution against ‘suspected’ Obama voters, and I find it impossible to believe that such thoughts were limited to those that voiced them aloud. This, I believe, is a major news story which has gone completely unreported.

  9. Lynn Es3 years ago

    Another excellent informative piece by Pew. You do a great job of providing information in a user-friendly format. Thanks.

  10. Rudy Griffin3 years ago

    Views of religion, politics and news sources are as partisan as voters. This culture is becoming more liberal in its views towards sex, drugs
    and religion. Christianity as opposed to spirituality and religion is the source that guides humanity in honesty, truthfulness and righteousness. And without it no country will remain free. Socialism or some other form of government subjection will govern the masses.

  11. Lee3 years ago

    What countries are included in the Emerging Markets category of your graph?

  12. Walter C.+Tice3 years ago

    I would like to know “why” the majority of the younger generations prefer to live together rather than get married and is the major reason that they do not want to raise children? Walt.

  13. Raul Soto3 years ago

    Very interesting

  14. Dan J Leunig3 years ago

    This is some very interesting statistical analysis about who we are. A little yield unsettling.

  15. Jeff3 years ago

    #9 explains in large part #1

    1. Emmanuel3 years ago

      That is exactly what I was thinking. For example, in 2013 when the Syrian regime reportedly used chemical weapons on its people, the Republican media were bashing Obama for not standing fully with the rebels. Not long after that, the same media outlets were against Obama giving support to the rebels. In my opinion, Repubicans today do not stand for anything; they only stand against what Obama stands for.

      1. Bobby3 years ago

        You got half of it right we are against most all of Obama’s policy and the people like Holder who implement them as if they had been approved.The part you missed is that we do stand for the Constitution and all of it’s amendments.That clearly is a major part of what we stand for along with promoting free market and pesonal responsibility.We do support caring for those who can not care for themselves until they can.

  16. Ryan Kenneth Leddy3 years ago

    The ideological shift in the GOP has been far more extreme than what is happening in the Democratic Party. Republicans in congress today are either extremely conservative or insanely conservative. The GOP demands ideological purity among all the members. They also have made it clear that they don’t have any sort of real, coherent ideology…Basically, The Right is against whatever Obama is for, even if that means turning down huge concessions from Obama like entitlement reform, revenue neutral corporate tax reform, and lessening spending cuts to defense from the sequester. Not to mention, slaughtering any chance the GOP has to become President for the foreseeable future…the path to the White House is almost impossible when you’re allowing any Democrat to automatically win 90% plus of African Americans, over 70% of the Hispanic vote, which is a number probably closer to 80% with Obama’s executive action on immigration, as well as over 70% of Asian Americans. These three groups combine to make up 27% to over 30% of the electorate.

    Overall, the Democratic Party is much more diverse in their beliefs. Economically, the same beliefs have been held largely since FDR, minus shift towards supporting free trade policies and regulation of Wall Street. The only difference is the Democratic Party’s almost universal support of marriage equality and reproductive rights. Also, it is because so many red state Democrats in the House and Senate lost their re-election bids, not to Liberal challengers in the primaries, but because of low turnout of key Democratic voting blocks in the mid-terms…..Also, because Obama is deeply unpopular in red states, which just so happen to be the states with the longest histories of deep racism, red state Democrats do everything they can to run from the President. In the end though, it doesn’t work since the people that dislike Obama will never vote Democrat anyways. So, all red state Democrats managed to do is kill the enthusiasm among key base voting groups like young people, minorities, and especially activist groups like environmentalists, immigration activists, and women reproductive rights organizations. So, the only Democrats that are in congress are from safe blue states or purple states that have been tilting blue for the last few Presidentlal elections.

    1. ogam53 years ago

      …..a LOT of us Progressives have come to despise this President because he’s revealed himself to be a corporate AUTOMATON – his religious zeal for the Trans-Pacific Partnership despite the avowed opposition of MOST Democrats, is just the LATEST example…..

    2. Perry Hood3 years ago

      Excellent summary here. It is unfortunate for them that the deep south racism is standing in the way of seeing to it that their needy populations do not even have access to paid for meaningful health care, which in the end cost their states more money. Here we find ideology standing in the way of progress for their own states. Now even Texas finds themselves in the midst of a rapidly falling economy due to the sudden dip in oil prices, a major source of their government funding. Will this finally force Texas to allow the Affordable Care Act take effect in their state? I think so. The Wendy Davis candidacy was just the beginning of the reckoning for the Lone Star State, and maybe for other energy intense states in the region.

    3. Andy from Beaverton3 years ago

      Did you even bother to read each of the subsections that are linked? I guess you don’t want facts to get in the way of your hardened opinion?

  17. Chip Boehm3 years ago

    Greetings…In your median income for college versus no college. Did you factor in any of those who have gone off grid by choice?

    Can you provide solid facts on alternative energy. e.g., solar, wood…risk vs benefits.

    Ever considered to correlate those who have opted for a more natural life style versus traditional and life expectancy or just overall happiness?

    Thanks for your report! Very informing!

  18. David Locke3 years ago

    If you took that college vs non-college income graph and added a lifetime dimension, ageism and obsolescence would show the limited success granted by graduating from college for what it is–temporary. Sure it’s good from the time you graduate until you’re in your 40’s, then it’s over. At 41 you end up taking a minimum wage job. Congrats.

    Learn a trade and practice it consistently for the rest of your life. You’ll beat the college grads.

    1. Dean Johnson3 years ago

      Obsolescence happens in the trades too, if you don’t keep up with the rapid pace of tech. From what I have seen in tech, wrt older workers, is that they ascend through the ranks and get caught when organizations flatten and they compete against lower waged workers who aren’t encumbered by historical methods. It’s similar to whoever that steel baron was that only hired immigrants because he didn’t have to fight with them about how things “should” be done. He could easily train them to the way he wanted them to work. Old tech workers, of which I am one, are notoriously hard to retrain.

    2. angelo3 years ago

      Data or it didn’t happen.

  19. Viola Perry3 years ago

    Today it is better getting to learn a trade than getting some college education that does not qualify for higher learning around the globe. Too many subjects have no business being in college but it is all about money making and then they graduate and cannot find a job to pay back the huge college debt. Other countries provide free higher education but our government does not want smart people!

    1. Pryor3 years ago

      We are our government. If our government does not want smart people, that means we don’t want smart people.

    2. ogam53 years ago

      …..problem IS, most of them and, unfortunately, those commenting in these threads wouldn’t KNOW one if they tripped over them unless the latter clutched multiple pieces of parchment in their clammy little compliant hands…..the entire Higher Ed RACKET which destroyed Main Street is coming to an END, soon – and, G-Ded good RIDDANCE to it…..

  20. Mike3 years ago

    Pew’s comment on #9 about news source is interesting…and suggests they have a liberal bias. The reason Conservatives flock around Fox is that the rest of the networks are Liberal biased…not much of a mystery. I am a conservative but I try to see both sides of the news. I listen to NPR to get the liberal slant and get the conservative slant from Fox…also Drudge on the internet. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

    1. Tucson Techie3 years ago

      Bull. Fox so-called-news is owned and run by corporations and people with money. It is not balanced, preferring to only present an extreme conservative view. CNN is better and more balanced. Note that I am not suggesting MSNBC, which is way more balanced than Fox, but does have a liberal slant.

      For really objective news, and from all parts of the world that we normally do not hear about, I suggest Aljazeera America. These folks are really about journalism.

      1. Ken M3 years ago

        To suggest that MSNBC is more balanced than Fox is ridiculous. Both carry extremist views and neither should ever be used in the same sentence with balanced news. As for CNN, you obviously never served in the Middle East campaigns nor likely ever wore the uniform. In Iraq, U.S. Marines would watch CNN broadcasts for the irony. Most of the time it favored the enemy. For example, U.S. troops would be ambushed and retaliate. CNN would report it as Marines attacking a small village and ignore the fact that the inhabitants provoked the fight. This happened so many times that one began to wonder if CNN was getting money from the other side to propagandize their cause. Aljazeera? Seriously?

        1. Sarge11B3 years ago

          That’s why I appreciated when the news at the chow hall was BBC and not Fox or CNN. As far as I was concerned, no one source told anywhere near what was happening, but how could it? The 30,000 foot view was far different than the view outside my Humvee window. Keep and open mind and investigate things for yourself.

    2. Scott M3 years ago

      While I sincerely applaud your effort to at least hear both sides, seeking NPR for the ‘liberal slant’ and Fox for the ‘conservative slant’ shows how programmed we’ve all become. Each outlet panders to its audience, framing coverage in any way they can to gain viewership, which leads to compartmentalization of our viewpoints. It’s a self-serving model and the graphic in #1 shows what it’s doing to us.

      It would be interesting if we had a free and independent press that wasn’t profit-motivated and board-room controlled. We might see this narrative change and stop seeing the two halves of our country grow further and further apart…

      1. PJ3 years ago

        Amen! Is that even possible anymore?

    3. lucas3 years ago

      The basic problem, is… the false equivaency. NPR may have a liberal bias (I feel it is slight) but is NOT liberal. Fox, OTOH is crazy conservative, primarily because most of their programming is not news, but advocacy cloaked in “news” clothing. A solid 75%of their information is ideology … not grounded in fact. And with no corrections made ever.

      The better counterpoint of Fox = conservative…. is Democracy Now = left.

      THAT is fringe left and fringe right.

    4. Dean Johnson3 years ago

      I can handle the republican slant in Fox “news”. It’s the unbridled inflammatory, sensational nature that makes me want to puke. Their attempts to maintain a credible facade are laughable. Any half-wit with an ounce of critical thinking ability should be able to see through their attention seeking behavior. Has anything on that channel been “just a problem” and not some world ending crisis? Have they ever said “oh hey, I guess that got worked out”?

    5. Julie3 years ago

      The emotions your comment seems to have generated cause me to hesitate, but I’ll say it anyway: I watch Fox. I’m Libertarian. I do find Fox to slant strongly toward their conservative audience and I also see the reverse slant (and unfortunately the absence of reporting on stories which would lend validity to the conservative worldview) on the major channels. I suppose everyone must make money and for that they need viewers, so this is life in the U.S.

      However, two things occur to me: 1) the major channels have too much fluff for me–I become bored with so many feature and entertainment stories; and 2) I scored 100% on Pew’s quiz regarding current events, which all came from my viewing FOX. (Perhaps the latter was a fluke, and I’d have learned the same news tidbits if I’d been watching the same percentage of CBS. But, somehow I doubt it.)

  21. undefined3 years ago

    # 14 is to be expected. Protestants are non profit for porfit businesses. Open up a hall, talk about ‘the good news’ and collect the cash without giving any back to the community of the poor. As Latinos find the scam profitable, more will join.

    1. Scott3 years ago

      All Protestants? Please. I’m a Pastor, of a church plant. We have no building (rent a school once a week) and I draw no salary. If you count my family’s tithe we lose money. Some make tons of money. 99% of the rest make little to none.

  22. M Walter3 years ago

    I find #9 much more troubling.

    1. Bobby3 years ago

      I do also find 9 troubling.If we have people getting any news from MSNBC that is a problem.The other outlets have some problems even PBS has a pro big government slant but they still report the news and not propaganda.The best thing to do is to watch each one some of the time and get all sides of the story and make up your on mind.If you watch just CNN or just Fox you will miss some facts and opinions.

  23. RODRIGO MANTILLA3 years ago


  24. JL Morris3 years ago

    I find #10 particularly troubling as we need news to protect our challenged democracy.

    1. john Grinder3 years ago

      I find news much easier to get than in the past when only traditional outlets were available. With a few key strokes I now have access to news sources from around the world. All available in English. This ability allows me to understand many other points of view before drawing my own conclusions. A real step forward.