17 striking findings from 2017
Pew Research Center studies a wide array of topics both in the U.S. and around the world, and every year we are struck by particular findings. Sometimes they mark a new milestone in public opinion; other times a sudden about-face. From an increase in Americans living without a spouse or partner to the impact of Donald Trump’s presidency, here are 17 findings that stood out to us in 2017:
1 Partisan divides dwarf demographic differences on key political values. The average gap between the views of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents across 10 political values has increased from 15 percentage points in 1994 to 36 points today. Two decades ago, the average partisan differences on these items were only slightly wider than differences by religious attendance or educational attainment, and about as wide as differences across racial lines. Today, the partisan gaps far exceed differences across other key demographics.
2 Donald Trump’s presidency has had a major impact on how the world sees the United States. A global median of just 22% have confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs, according to a survey conducted last spring. The image of the U.S. abroad also suffered a decline: Just 49% have a favorable view, down from 64% at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency.
3 About four-in-ten Americans say they live in a gun-owning household, while three-in-ten say they personally own a gun. Protection tops the list of reasons for owning a gun. And most gun owners (74%) say the right to own a firearm is essential to their personal sense of freedom. About three-quarters (73%) say they can’t see themselves ever not owning a gun. Gun ownership is more common among men, whites and those who live in rural areas.
Gun owners and non-owners have starkly different views on gun violence in America. While a majority of those who do not own guns (59%) see gun violence as a major problem in the country today, just one-third of adults who own guns say this is a very big problem.
4 Democrats and Republicans disagree now more than ever on the news media’s “watchdog” role. Roughly nine-in-ten Democrats say news media criticism keeps political leaders from doing things that shouldn’t be done, compared with 42% of Republicans who say this – the widest gap in Pew Research Center surveys conducted since 1985. This stands in stark contrast to early 2016, when similar shares of Democrats (74%) and Republicans (77%) supported the media’s watchdog role.
5 Muslims are projected to be the world’s fastest-growing major religious group in the decades ahead. By 2035, the number of babies born to Muslims is projected to modestly exceed births to Christians, mostly due to Muslims’ relatively young population and high fertility rates.
The Muslim population in Europe, now accounting for 4.9% of the total population, is projected to continue to rise. Even if there is no new migration in the coming decades (an unlikely scenario), the Muslim share of the region’s population is expected to increase to 7.4% by 2050.
6 In the U.S., Hispanic identity fades across generations as distance from immigrant roots grows. High intermarriage rates and declining immigration are changing how some Americans with Hispanic ancestry see their identity. Most U.S. adults with Hispanic ancestry self-identify as Hispanic, but 11%, or 5 million, do not. While nearly all immigrant adults from Latin America or Spain say they are Hispanic, this share decreases by the third and fourth or higher generations.
7 Americans see fundamental differences between men and women, but men and women have different views on the cause of these differences. Majorities of women who see gender differences in the way people express their feelings, excel at work and approach parenting say differences between men and women are mostly based on societal expectations. Men who see differences in these areas tend to believe biology is the root.
8 Many Americans expect certain professions to be dominated by automation in their lifetime – but few see their own jobs at risk. Roughly three-quarters of Americans think it’s realistic that robots and computers might one day do many jobs currently done by humans, and sizable majorities expect jobs such as fast food workers and insurance claims processors to be performed by machines within their lifetimes. Yet just 30% of American workers expect their own jobs or professions to become automated.
9 The share of Republicans who hold negative views of the effect of colleges and universities on the country has grown significantly since 2015. Nearly six-in-ten Republicans and Republican leaners (58%) now say colleges have a negative effect. Two years ago, by contrast, 54% of Republicans said colleges were having a positive effect. Democrats and Democratic leaners have consistently held positive views of the effect of colleges on the U.S.; 72% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say this today.
Republicans also have “cooler” feelings toward college professors than do Democrats. On a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100, where 0 represents the coldest rating and 100 is the warmest, Republicans give college professors an average rating of 46. By contrast, Democrats give them a far warmer average rating of 71.
10 Immigrants are projected to play the primary role in the growth of the American working-age population in the coming decades. The number of working-age immigrants is projected to increase from 33.9 million in 2015 to 38.5 million by 2035, with new immigrant arrivals accounting for all of that gain. Absent these new arrivals, the total projected U.S. working-age population would fall.
11 News stories about President Trump’s first 60 days in office offered far more negative assessments than they did of prior administrations. About six-in-ten stories on Trump’s early days in office had a negative assessment, about three times more than in early coverage for Obama and roughly twice that of Bush and Clinton. Coverage of Trump’s early time in office moved further away from a focus on the policy agenda and more toward character and leadership.
12 In the past 10 years, the share of U.S. adults living without a spouse or partner has increased. This rise in “unpartnered” Americans, from 39% in 2007 to 42% today, has been most pronounced among young adults: Roughly six-in-ten adults younger than 35 are now living without a spouse or partner. The share of “unpartnered” adults also has risen more sharply among those who are not employed.
13 About half of 2.2 million people who sought asylum in Europe during the 2015 and 2016 refugee surge were still in limbo at the end of 2016 and did not know if they would be allowed to stay. Among Europe’s asylum seekers waiting on decisions as of the end of 2016, an estimated two-thirds had not had a decision made on their case – and another third (about 385,000) were appealing their first decision after being rejected. For asylum seekers from certain countries, the share waiting was much higher than the share approved. For example, an estimated 89% of Albanian applicants between 2015 and 2016 were waiting to know their status in Europe at the end of 2016.
14 About eight-in-ten Americans say they understand the risks and challenges of police work, but 86% of police say the public does not understand. This is one of several areas where the views of police and those of the public diverge significantly. For example, while half of the public says the country still needs to make changes to give blacks equal rights with whites, this view is shared by just 16% of police. Law enforcement officers and the public are broadly in agreement on other issues, such as making private gun sales and gun show sales subject to background checks.
15 About six-in-ten Americans ages 18 to 29 say the primary way they watch television now is with streaming services on the internet. Much smaller shares of older Americans cite online streaming services as their primary way of watching TV; older Americans tend to rely on cable connections. Overall, just 28% of Americans cite streaming services as the primary way they watch TV.
16 Views on whether whites benefit from societal advantages that blacks do not have are split sharply along racial and partisan lines. Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (78%) say white people benefit at least a fair amount from advantages that blacks do not have. Among Republicans and Republican leaners, 72% say whites do not benefit much or at all from these advantages. An overwhelming majority of blacks (92%) say whites benefit from societal advantages, while just 46% of whites say the same.
17 Science knowledge is closely related to expectations for harm from climate change among Democrats, but not among Republicans. In 2016, Democrats with high science knowledge were far more likely than Democrats with low science knowledge to say a series of environmental impacts would be very likely to occur as a result of climate change, including rising sea levels and intensifying storms. But there are only modest or no differences among Republicans with different levels of science knowledge in their expectations of harm to the Earth’s ecosystems.
Almost all Democrats with high knowledge about science say climate change is mostly due to human activity (93%); a much smaller share of Democrats with low science knowledge (49%) say the same. Among Republicans, there are no significant differences by science knowledge about the causes of climate change.
Abigail Geiger is an associate digital producer and writer for Pew Research Center.