May 22, 2018 12:03 pm

Key findings about American life in urban, suburban and rural areas

Chris Maertz/EyeEm via Getty
(Chris Maertz/EyeEm via Getty)

Major demographic shifts are reshaping the United States. The country is growing in population while becoming older and more racially and ethnically diverse. To some extent, these demographic trends are playing out differently in America’s urban, suburban and rural communities.

These three community types are also on different paths politically. Rural counties have moved in a Republican direction and urban areas have become even more Democratic over the past two decades; the suburbs remain about evenly divided between the two parties.

Despite these demographic and political differences, people across community types have much in common. For example, they are about equally likely to say they are attached to their communities, and they share some of the same concerns about issues in their areas.

Here are some key findings from a new Pew Research Center report about the attitudes and experiences of urban, suburban and rural Americans:

1Suburbs are growing faster than urban and rural areas. Since 2000, suburban counties saw a 16% increase in population, compared with increases of 13% and 3%, respectively, in urban and rural counties. The overall share of U.S. residents who live in suburban counties has also risen during this period, while holding steady in urban counties and declining in rural ones.

The growth in suburban areas since 2000 is driven by several factors. More than 6 million Americans who used to live in urban and rural counties have migrated to the suburbs, and more than 5 million international immigrants have settled there as well. While urban counties have also had an influx of international immigrants since 2000 (7 million), they have lost 5 million residents to suburban and rural areas. In contrast, in rural counties, the number that moved out to other types of communities since 2000 modestly exceeded the number that moved in. All county types saw more births than deaths during this time period.

2Suburbs are aging more rapidly than urban and rural areas. Nationally and in each community type, the 65-and-older population has grown more sharply since 2000 than any other age group. But while older adults are a higher share of the population in rural areas, suburban counties have seen the largest increase. The 65-and-older population has grown 39% in the suburbs since 2000, compared with 26% in urban and 22% in rural counties.

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Topics: Population Geography, Demographics

May 22, 2018 12:03 pm

America is changing demographically. Here’s how your county compares

Large demographic shifts are reshaping America. In urban counties, nonwhites now make up a clear majority of the population, while solid majorities in suburban and rural areas are white. Urban and suburban counties are gaining population due to an influx of immigrants in both types of counties, as well as domestic migration into suburban areas. Rural counties, however, have made only minimal population gains since 2000 as more people have left for urban or suburban areas than have moved in. And while the population is graying in all three types of communities, this is happening more rapidly in the suburbs than in urban and rural counties.

These trends are making urban, suburban and rural counties more distinct from one another. This may help explain why a new Pew Research Center survey finds most urban and rural residents feel misunderstood by those who live in other types of communities.

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Topics: Demographics

May 21, 2018 9:00 am

U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout

Tellers in Seoul, South Korea, count ballots from the May 2017 presidential election, which had a turnout of nearly 78% of the voting-age population. (Jean Chung/Getty Images)
Tellers in Seoul, South Korea, count ballots from the May 2017 presidential election, which had a turnout of nearly 78% of the voting-age population. (Jean Chung/Getty Images)

Nearly 56% of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election, representing a slight uptick compared with 2012 but less than in the record year of 2008. While most Americans – 70% in a recent Pew Research Center survey – say high turnout in presidential elections is very important, what constitutes “high turnout” depends very much on which country you’re looking at and which measuring stick you use.

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Topics: Voter Participation, Elections and Campaigns, World Elections

May 17, 2018 7:00 am

Americans say U.S. colleges make the grade, but many say public schools don’t measure up

(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Americans say their nation’s colleges and universities compare relatively well with those in other developed countries – but the public offers more negative assessments of the state of U.S. public schools.

About half of U.S. adults say the country’s colleges and universities are either the “best in the world” (16%) or “above average” (35%) compared with those in other developed nations, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. By comparison, just 18% say U.S. public schools rank above average or higher internationally, while 41% of Americans say public schools are below average (37% rate them as average).

On many measures of how the United States fares relative to other countries, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to view the nation as performing better. This extends to views of the country’s public schools.

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Topics: Political Polarization, Trust in Institutions, Education, U.S. Political Parties, Political Attitudes and Values

May 16, 2018 1:00 pm

Democrats, Republicans give their parties so-so ratings for standing up for ‘traditional’ positions

Republicans and Democrats give their own parties only mixed ratings for how well they do in standing up for some traditional party positions, according to a national survey conducted by Pew Research Center earlier this month.

Fewer than half (45%) of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the Democratic Party does an excellent or good job in standing up for such traditional party positions as “protecting the interests of minorities, helping the poor and needy and representing working people.” Slightly more (52%) say the party does only a fair or poor job in advocating these positions.

Similarly, 43% of Republicans and Republican leaners say their party does an excellent or good job in standing up for traditional GOP positions such as “reducing the size of government, cutting taxes and promoting conservative social values,” while 55% say the party does only a fair or poor job.

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Topics: Political Party Affiliation, U.S. Political Parties, Political Issue Priorities

May 16, 2018 12:00 pm

Most Americans say climate change affects their local community, including two-thirds living near coast

A road in Flagler Beach, Florida, washed out by ocean waters stirred up by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A road in Flagler Beach, Florida, washed out by ocean waters stirred up by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Roughly six-in-ten Americans (59%) say climate change is currently affecting their local community either a great deal or some, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Some 31% of Americans say the effects of climate change are affecting them personally, while 28% say climate change is affecting their local community but its effects are not impacting them in a personal way.

As is the case on many climate change questions, perceptions of whether and how much climate change is affecting local communities are closely tied with political party affiliation. About three-quarters of Democrats (76%) say climate change is affecting their local community at least some, while roughly a third of Republicans say this (35%).

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Topics: Science and Innovation, Energy and Environment, Political Issue Priorities

May 15, 2018 11:00 am

Most U.S. Muslims observe Ramadan by fasting during daylight hours

Muslims pray on the eve of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan at a mosque in New York in 2017. (Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Muslims pray on the eve of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan at a mosque in New York in 2017. (Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Muslims around the world are set to mark Ramadan, a holy month when many fast from sunrise to sunset in order to focus on their spiritual life and get closer to God. In the United States, the vast majority of Muslims celebrate Ramadan, with eight-in-ten saying they fast during the holiday.

In fact, more Muslim adults say they fast during Ramadan than say they pray five times a day (42%) or attend mosque weekly (43%), according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey of U.S. Muslims. And far more women fast during Ramadan (82%) than wear the head cover, or hijab, at least most of the time (43%).

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Topics: Muslims and Islam, Religious Affiliation, Religious Beliefs and Practices

May 15, 2018 7:00 am

Rising share of U.S. primary schools have sworn officers on the premises

Tiffany Wiggins, a school police officer in Baltimore, talks with a student at Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle School in 2015. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Tiffany Wiggins, a school police officer in Baltimore, talks with a student at Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle School in 2015. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

A growing share of public primary schools in the United States have sworn law enforcement officers on site, according to a recent government report that comes amid renewed attention to school security.

An estimated 36% of U.S. public primary schools had sworn officers on site at least once a week in the 2015-16 school year, up from 21% a decade earlier, according to the report from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The share of primary schools with an officer present grew much faster during this period than the share of secondary schools with an officer on site, which increased from 58% to 65%. (The most recent available data for both types of schools are for the 2015-16 school year. Primary schools are defined as schools where the lowest grade is not higher than grade three and the highest grade is not higher than grade eight. Secondary schools include middle and high schools, as well as combined schools.)

The presence of officers at primary schools differed by the size of the school: A quarter of schools with fewer than 300 students reported officers on site, compared with 42% of schools with 500 to 999 students. (Comparable data for primary schools with 1,000 or more students are unavailable.)

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Topics: Education

May 14, 2018 1:03 pm

Can we still trust polls?

This is one of an occasional series of posts on polling. 

Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as the UK’s decision to leave the European Union through “Brexit,” rattled public confidence in polls. Since these two major world events occurred, we have been asked the same question when giving presentations, on social media, in interviews, and from our own friends and neighbors: “Can we still trust polls?”

Our new video explains why well-designed polls can be trusted.

Those who felt led astray by surveys conducted during the 2016 U.S. presidential election may be surprised to learn that national polling was generally quite accurate.

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Topics: Polling, Research Methods

May 14, 2018 12:17 pm

Many Republican Millennials differ with older party members on climate change and energy issues

There are significant divides between younger Republicans – Millennials born between 1981 and 1996 – and their elders in the GOP on a range of environmental and energy issues. One notable difference is that larger shares of GOP Millennials believe that the Earth is warming mostly due to human activity or say that climate change is affecting their communities.

About a third (36%) of Millennials in the GOP say the Earth is warming mostly due to human activity, double the share of Republicans in the Baby Boomer or older generations, according to a Pew Research Center survey. This finding is consistent with a 2017 Pew Research Center survey that used somewhat different question wording.

In addition, 45% of Millennial Republicans say they are seeing at least some effects of global climate change in the communities where they live, compared with a third of Republicans in the Baby Boomer or older generations.

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Topics: Political Party Affiliation, Science and Innovation, Energy and Environment, U.S. Political Parties, Generations and Age