When Republicans lost their House majority in this year’s midterm elections, the toll was especially high among GOP moderates, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.
Among the Republican House incumbents who lost their re-election campaigns, 23 of 30 were more moderate than the median Republican in the chamber. No Democratic incumbents running for re-election in the House lost their seats. (This analysis excludes the election in New York’s 27th Congressional District, where votes are being recounted. Incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Collins ran for re-election against Democrat Nate McMurray.)
Have you smoked at least 100 cigarettes in your life? Have you practiced yoga in the past year? On average, how many hours of sleep do you get in a day?
At face value, these questions are not directly related to the topics Pew Research Center is most committed to studying. Yet our researchers have been periodically asking questions like these for years. Why? These are examples of benchmarking questions, which the Center uses as a check to ensure that our surveys are accurate.
Why and how we use benchmarking questions
Determining the accuracy of a survey requires some sort of objective standard against which the survey can be compared. In election polls and other measures of voting intent, the standard is the outcome of the election. But for surveys that don’t ask about elections or voting intent, researchers need to find another way to benchmark their findings. This is often done with the help of other surveys – usually large, expensive, government surveys conducted with great attention to data quality.
Pew Research Center surveys occasionally include questions about economic, demographic and lifestyle characteristics for which government statistics are available as a benchmark. This not only helps us check the accuracy of our findings, it also helps us study how surveys themselves can be better conducted.
Take, for example, a Pew Research Center study from last year that examined what low response rates – many potential respondents being contacted but far fewer of them participating – mean for the accuracy of telephone surveys. To help answer this question, the study compared the results of a telephone survey by the Center with those of high-response, benchmark surveys by the federal government to see what, if any, differences existed.
The report found that Pew Research Center surveys were closely aligned with federal surveys on key demographic and lifestyle benchmarks. Across 14 questions about personal traits, the average difference between the government estimate and the Center’s telephone survey estimate was 3 percentage points. Differences on individual questions ranged from 0 to 8 points. The largest was on a measure asking respondents about their health status: The government found that 59% of people rated their health as very good or excellent, while the Center’s telephone survey found 51% doing so.
Europeans generally are less religious than people in other parts of the world. But within Europe, there are sometimes sizable differences in levels of religious commitment, according to an analysis of recent Pew Research Center surveys in 34 countries.
To learn more about religion in the nations of Europe, select a country to see where it ranks in overall religiosity. While exploring the interactive, keep in mind that differences between two countries may not be statistically significant due to the margins of error inherent in survey data.
Young adults in many Western European nations are substantially less likely than older people to say that being Christian, being native to their country, or having ancestry there is important to national belonging – that is, to being “truly British,” “truly French,” and so on.
But in Central and Eastern Europe, there often are no such divides between young adults and older people. Indeed, in many countries in this part of Europe, people of different ages are about equally likely to say that Christianity, birthplace and ancestry are important to national identity.
In Russia, for example, 55% of adults under 35 say being Christian (specifically Orthodox Christian) is important to being truly Russian, roughly comparable to the 58% of older Russians who say this. And in Romania, similar shares of younger and older adults say being Christian (again, Orthodox Christian) is important to being truly Romanian (71% and 75%, respectively).
In Western Europe, by comparison, adults under 35 are considerably less likely than older people to view being Christian as important to national identity. In Finland, 15% of adults under 35 say being Christian is important to being truly Finnish, compared with 38% of older Finns who say this. And in Ireland, 35% of younger adults say being Christian is important to being truly Irish, compared with 55% of older adults who say this.
There were 12.0 million immigrants from Mexico living in the United States in 2016, and fewer than half of them (45%) were in the country illegally, according to Pew Research Center estimates. Mexico is the country’s largest source of immigrants, making up 26.6% of all U.S. immigrants.
With President Donald Trump’s administration taking steps to reduce the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. – including through the increase of law enforcement agents at the southern border – here’s what we know about illegal immigration from Mexico.
1The number of Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. illegally has declined by more than 1 million since 2007. In 2016, 5.4 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico lived in the U.S., down from a peak of 6.9 million in 2007. Despite the drop, Mexicans still make up about half of the nation’s 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants (51% in 2016).
2There were more apprehensions of non-Mexicans than Mexicans at U.S. borders in fiscal year 2017 for the third time on record (the first was in fiscal 2014). In fiscal 2017, the Border Patrol made 130,454 apprehensions of Mexicans, a sharp drop from a peak of 1.6 million apprehensions in 2000. The decline in apprehensions reflects the decrease in the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S.
One-in-ten Americans say they feel lonely or isolated from those around them all or most of the time, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted earlier this year. While this is a small share of U.S. adults overall, the share rises significantly for some groups, including those who feel weak ties to the communities they live in and those who are financially stressed.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, frequent loneliness is linked to dissatisfaction with one’s family, social and community life, the survey found. About three-in-ten (28%) of those dissatisfied with their family life feel lonely all or most of the time, compared with just 7% of those satisfied with their family life. Satisfaction with one’s social life follows a similar pattern: 26% of those dissatisfied with their social life are frequently lonely, compared with just 5% of those who are satisfied with their social life. It’s unclear whether dissatisfaction with particular areas of life leads to feelings of loneliness or vice versa – or whether something else entirely is driving reported feelings of loneliness and isolation.
As U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping prepare to meet at the G20 summit in Argentina this weekend, Americans have less positive views of China than in 2017, with a growing share concerned about China’s economic strength instead of its military capabilities.
Around four-in-ten Americans (38%) have a favorable opinion of China, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted earlier this year. That’s down slightly from 44% in 2017. And nearly six-in-ten Americans (58%) say they are more concerned about China’s economic strength than its military capabilities, a 6-percentage-point increase from 2017, when 52% pointed to China’s economic power as the bigger concern.
The Trump administration has ramped up tariffs on Chinese imports over the past year, and this weekend’s meeting between Trump and Xi is expected to focus heavily on trade between the two nations. Peter Navarro, a Trump trade adviser who has been highly critical of China, is also expected to attend.
The United States has more immigrants than any other country in the world. Today, more than 40 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country, accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants in 2016. The population of immigrants is also very diverse, with just about every country in the world represented among U.S. immigrants.
Pew Research Center regularly publishes statistical portraits of the nation’s foreign-born population, which include historical trends since 1960. Based on these portraits, here are answers to some key questions about the U.S. immigrant population.
How many people in the U.S. are immigrants?
The U.S. foreign-born population reached a record 43.7 million in 2016. Since 1965, when U.S. immigration laws replaced a national quota system, the number of immigrants living in the U.S. has more than quadrupled. Immigrants today account for 13.5% of the U.S. population, nearly triple the share (4.7%) in 1970. However, today’s immigrant share remains below the record 14.8% share in 1890, when 9.2 million immigrants lived in the U.S.
What is the legal status of immigrants in the U.S.?
Most immigrants (76%) are in the country legally, while a quarter are unauthorized, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on census data adjusted for undercount. In 2016, 45% were naturalized U.S. citizens.
Some 27% of immigrants were permanent residents and 5% were temporary residents in 2016. Another 24% of all immigrants were unauthorized immigrants. From 1990 to 2007, the unauthorized immigrant population tripled in size – from 3.5 million to a record high of 12.2 million. During the Great Recession, the number declined by 1 million and since then has leveled off. In 2016, there were 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., accounting for 3.3% of the nation’s population.
The decline in the unauthorized immigrant population is due largely to a fall in the number from Mexico – the single largest group of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. Between 2007 and 2016, this group decreased by more than 1 million. Meanwhile, there was a rise in the number from Central America.
Democrats and Republicans are increasingly divided in their political values, but there are some things in life they generally agree on. When asked in a national survey to say what makes their lives meaningful, Americans across the political spectrum placed family at the top, and partisan differences were modest among those who mentioned family, career, money or friends.
Among nine aspects of life cited by at least 10% of respondents, the only large difference between the parties was in the importance of spirituality and faith, according to a September 2017 Pew Research Center survey of 4,867 U.S. adults that asked people to describe in their own words what keeps them going in life. Overall, 28% of Republicans mentioned the importance of spirituality and faith, compared with 13% of Democrats.
In other areas, there was little difference between the parties. Family was cited by 72% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats. Career was mentioned by 36% of Democrats and an only slightly smaller share of Republicans (32%), while Republicans were only slightly more likely than Democrats to give a response about money (25% vs. 21%). Democrats and Republicans were equally likely to mention friends (19% each) and health (16%).
The difference in how often partisans mentioned faith and spirituality becomes more pronounced when ideology is factored in. About a third (35%) of conservative Republicans mentioned spirituality’s importance to them, compared with about half as many liberal and moderate Republicans (17%) and conservative and moderate Democrats (also 17%). Only about one-in-ten liberal Democrats (9%) mentioned something about spirituality or faith in response to this open-ended question.
Responses to the survey question were analyzed with a computational model that helped identify recurring keywords that appeared when people mentioned particular topics. Several validation tests were then conducted to ensure that these keywords were accurately characterizing responses. More information about this process is described here.
Partisan loyalty and dislike of the opposing party and its candidates were major factors for voters’ choices in this month’s midterm elections, with far fewer citing policies as the main reason why they voted for Democratic or Republican candidates.
Although partisan motivations dominated across the board, the tone of these partisan motivations differed somewhat between Republican and Democratic voters, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Nov. 7-13.
Asked an open-ended question about why they voted as they did, 36% of those who voted for the Democratic candidate in their district cited opposition to President Donald Trump, the Republican Party or the GOP’s candidate as the main reason for their vote – about the same share (37%) as said they were motivated primarily by support for their own party or party’s candidate. (For more on reactions to the election and expectations for the new Congress, see “Public Expects Gridlock, Deeper Divisions With Changed Political Landscape.”)