Feb 17, 2016 12:41 pm

5 facts about the Supreme Court

James Peck of Springfield, Virginia, lays flowers down at a makeshift memorial for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Sunday February 14, 2016, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post via Getty Images
James Peck of Springfield, Virginia, lays flowers down at a makeshift memorial for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Supreme Court holds a unique place in American government. Sitting justices do not have set terms, and they can influence public policy long after the presidents who nominated them and the senators who confirmed them have departed. Partisans have often battled over these nominations because of the court’s ability to reshape or strike down laws favored by one side or another.

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia has set off another of those battles. As President Barack Obama prepares to face off with a Republican-controlled Senate, here are five facts on how Americans view the Supreme Court. Read More

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Polarization, Supreme Court, U.S. Political Parties

Feb 16, 2016 7:00 am

Millennials less confident about nation’s future, but so were their parents, grandparents when young

Carter's 'crisis of confidence' speech
College student Chuck McManis watches President Jimmy Carter’s nationally televised energy address, which became known as the “malaise” speech. When Carter felt beset by pessimism amid the energy crisis in 1979, he gave a startling speech warning that a “crisis of confidence” posed a fundamental threat to U.S. democracy. Photo by AP Photo/Mao

Millennials differ from older generations in many ways, from their racial and ethnic diversity to their distinctive views on a number of political and social issues. But they are similar in one surprising respect: As America’s youngest adult generation they are the least confident about the nation’s future, just like Generation Xers and Baby Boomers when they were young. Read More

Topics: Generations and Age

Feb 12, 2016 3:18 pm

What voters want in a president today, and how their views have changed

The presidential nomination contests are heating up and both parties’ 2016 fields have narrowed. And since it’s also Presidents Day weekend, it’s a good time to consider what voters want in a president, regardless of which candidate they may support.

Past experience is not necessarily required (especially for Republicans).

Last March, GOP voters valued experience; by September, most wanted ‘new ideas’Last March, more than a year before the first primaries, more voters valued a hypothetical candidate with “experience and a proven record” (50%) than one who had “new ideas and a different approach” (43%). Just six months later, those numbers had flipped – 55% said it was more important for a candidate to have new ideas, while 37% valued experience and a proven record.

This shift came entirely among Republican and Republican-leaning voters. The share of Republicans saying it was more important for a candidate to have new ideas increased by nearly 30 percentage points over this period, from 36% to 65%. Opinions among Democratic voters remained far more stable. In September, 50% valued experience, about the same as the 46% who said this in March.

Past experience as a Washington lawmaker also is viewed more negatively among the public overall than in prior presidential campaigns – again, especially among Republicans. In January, 31% of the public – including 44% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents – said they would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who had been an elected official in Washington for many years. In 2007, just 15% of the public and 20% of Republicans had a negative view of a candidate with longtime experience as a D.C. elected official. Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Political Attitudes and Values, Voter Preferences

Feb 12, 2016 2:30 pm

Almost all U.S. presidents have been Christians

Nearly half of all U.S. presidents are Episcopalian or Presbyterian

The U.S. Constitution famously prohibits any religious test or requirement for public office. Still, most of the men who have been president have been openly religious, with many belonging to some of the country’s most prominent Protestant denominations.

A similar dynamic is at work in the current campaign for the White House. With the exception of Democrat Bernie Sanders (who is Jewish), all of the presidential hopefuls are Christians and most are Protestants.

In addition, all of the current presidential candidates have spoken openly about the importance of faith in their lives (again, with the exception of Sanders, who describes himself as “not particularly religious”). Our recent survey shows that many Americans care about their leaders’ faith. For instance, half of all American adults say that it’s important for a president to share their religious beliefs. And more people now say there is “too little” religious discussion by their political leaders (40%) than say there is “too much” (27%).

Historically, about a quarter of the presidents – including some of the nation’s most famous leaders, like George Washington, James Madison and Franklin Roosevelt – were members of the Episcopal Church, the American successor to the Church of England. Read More

Topics: Religion and Government, Religion and U.S. Politics, Religious Affiliation

Feb 12, 2016 9:25 am

On Darwin Day, 5 facts about the evolution debate

Photograph of Charles Darwin by Maull and Polyblank for the Literary and Scientific Portrait Club (1855) via Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Charles_Darwin#mediaviewer/File:Charles_Darwin_by_Maull_and_Polyblank,_1855-1.jpg
Photograph of Charles Darwin by Maull and Polyblank for the Literary and Scientific Portrait Club (1855) via Wikimedia Commons.

Today is the 207th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, a day now celebrated by some as Darwin Day. Darwin, of course, 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, more than 100 events have been planned worldwide, many of them anchored by scientific talks or symposia. Others, such as a children’s scavenger hunt at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., are a little less serious.

Here are five facts about the public’s views on evolution as well as other aspects of the debate in the U.S. and elsewhere: Read More

Category: 5 Facts

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

Feb 11, 2016 1:00 pm

5 facts about Mexico and immigration to the U.S.

U.S. immigration from Latin America has shifted over the past two decades. From 1965 to 2015, more than 16 million Mexicans migrated to the U.S. in one of the largest mass migrations in modern history. But over the past decade, Mexican migration to the U.S. has slowed dramatically. Today, Mexico increasingly serves as a land bridge for Central American immigrants traveling to the U.S.

Here are five facts about Mexico and trends in immigration to the U.S.

1Mexico increases deportations of Central AmericansMexico is stopping more unauthorized Central American immigrants at its southern border. The Mexican government said in 2014 that it would increase enforcement at its southern border in response to an increased flow of Central Americans traveling through Mexico to reach the U.S. In 2015, the government there carried out about 150,000 deportations of unauthorized immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, a 44% jump over the previous year. These three Central American countries alone accounted for nearly all (97%) of Mexico’s deportations in 2015. Read More

Topics: Immigration, Immigration Trends, Latin America, Mexico, Religious Leaders, Unauthorized Immigration

Feb 11, 2016 9:36 am

Concern for Christians in the Middle East helps drive historic meeting between Catholic, Orthodox leaders

Composite image of Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill
Photo credits: Franco Origlia/Getty Images (Francis); Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty Images (Kirill)

A historic event within global Christianity is set to take place Friday as Pope Francis meets Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Cuba – the first-ever meeting between the leaders of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches since the Orthodox tradition broke away from Catholicism nearly 1,000 years ago. While Pope Francis has met with other Orthodox leaders, including Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, he has never met with the Russian Orthodox patriarch, who leads the largest church within Orthodoxy.

Tensions between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches have long prevented a meeting between patriarch and pope, but a mutual concern for the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa appears to be one reason Francis and Kirill are finally coming together with plans to sign a joint declaration.

Read More

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Middle East and North Africa, Religion and Society, Religious Leaders

Feb 10, 2016 1:30 pm

Most Americans say U.S. economic system is unfair, but high-income Republicans disagree

It has become one of the recurring questions of the 2016 presidential campaigns in both parties: Is the U.S. economic system fair to most Americans, or is it “rigged” to favor the rich and powerful?

Most Americans say economic system unfairly favors powerful interests A substantial majority of Americans – 65% – say the economic system in this country “unfairly favors powerful interests.” Fewer than half as many (31%) say the system “is generally fair to most Americans.”

There are notable differences on this issue between – and within – both political parties. Overall, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to view the economic system as unfair (73% vs. 54%).

The ideological gap is even starker. Conservative Republicans are split over the fairness of the economic system: 50% say the system favors the powerful, while just about as many (47%) say it’s fair. By contrast, fully 82% of liberal Democrats say the economic system in this country favors powerful interests. A slim 15% think it’s fair to most. Read More

Topics: Economic Policy, Income Inequality, Political Attitudes and Values

Feb 10, 2016 12:21 pm

A snapshot of Catholics in Mexico, Pope Francis’ next stop

Catholic affiliation in Latin American, 2014When Pope Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, arrives in Mexico this week, he will be visiting a country that is home to not only the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, but one of the biggest Catholic populations, too. Indeed, Mexico has the globe’s second-largest number of Catholics, and a larger majority of Mexicans have remained tied to their Catholic faith compared with people in many other Latin American countries.

Across Latin America, the portion of people who identify as Catholic has declined considerably in recent decades, from at least 90% in the 1960s to 69% in 2014. This decline is largely due to widespread conversion to Protestant (and especially evangelical) denominations, as well as some people leaving organized religion altogether. But the trend away from Catholicism has been less pronounced in Mexico, where 81% of adults identify as Catholic today, compared with 90% who say they were raised Catholic, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report.

Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Latin America, Mexico, Religious Affiliation, Religious Leaders

Feb 9, 2016 3:31 pm

Among Millennials engaged in primaries, Dems more likely to learn about the election from social media

In a report released last week, Pew Research Center examined how Americans are learning about the 2016 presidential election. A new analysis of this data reveals that while Millennials overall are more likely than older generations to get political news through social media, there are striking party-line differences, particularly among Millennials who say they are very likely to take part in the primaries and caucuses.

Among Millennials engaged in primaries, Dems more likely to learn about the election from social mediaAmong this group, Democrats and Democratic-leaning Millennials are far more likely than Republican and Republican-leaning Millennials to learn about the election via social media, the new analysis finds. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Millennial Democrats who say they are very likely to participate in their state’s primary or caucus learned about the 2016 presidential election through a social networking site. This is starkly higher than the 50% of Millennial Republicans who say they are very likely to participate. These party differences were not found in other generations. Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Digital Media, Election News, News Audience Trends and Attitudes, News Interest, News Media Trends, News Sources, Social Media