Aug 29, 2017 7:02 am

Congressional productivity is up – but many new laws overturn Obama-era rules

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., ascends the Capitol steps shortly before the Senate began its recess on Aug. 3, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., ascends the Capitol steps shortly before the Senate began its recess on Aug. 3, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Republican-controlled 115th Congress may not have been able to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, but it hasn’t been without legislative accomplishments. In fact, this Congress is among the most productive in recent years – though a sizable share of its laws to date have been aimed at scrapping Obama-era rules.

To date, Congress has passed 55 measures that have been signed into law, 46 of which we consider “substantive” by our deliberately generous criteria – that is, any legislation other than renaming buildings, awarding medals, commemorating historic events or taking other purely ceremonial actions. The current Congress is tied with the 110th (2007-08) for the fifth-highest count of substantive laws among the past 16 Congresses at this point in their respective first sessions. (This analysis of 30 years of records obtained from Congress.gov counts all measures that received final legislative approval before Congress left on its traditional August recess, even if they weren’t formally signed into law until later.)

The 46 laws we’ve tagged as substantive include 14 whose sole purpose was to overturn various rules adopted by the Obama administration, under the 1996 Congressional Review Act. This is by far the heaviest use Congress has ever made of the CRA. Before this year, in fact, only one regulation had ever been undone via the procedure specified in that law. Those 14 “resolutions of disapproval” account for about 30% of the substantive laws, and a quarter of all the laws, enacted so far by this Congress. (A 15th rule repeal, targeting a Transportation Department regulation that would have required many metropolitan planning organizations in the same region to merge, did not use the procedure outlined in the CRA.)

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Topics: Congress, Federal Government

Aug 28, 2017 11:30 am

U.S. Muslims are religiously observant, but open to multiple interpretations of Islam

Thousands of Muslims gather at the Diyanet Center of America mosque in Lanham, Maryland, to observe Eid al-Fitr during the holy month of Ramadan in 2015. (Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Thousands of Muslims gather at the Diyanet Center of America mosque in Lanham, Maryland, to observe Eid al-Fitr during the holy month of Ramadan in 2015. (Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

For American Muslims, being highly religious does not necessarily translate into acceptance of traditional notions of Islam. While many U.S. Muslims say they attend mosque and pray regularly, sizable shares also say that there is more than one way to interpret their religion and that traditional understandings of Islam need to be reinterpreted to address the issues of today.

By some conventional measures, U.S. Muslims are as religious as – or more religious than – many Americans who belong to other faith groups. Four-in-ten (43%) Muslim Americans say they attend mosque at least once a week, including 18% who say they attend more than once a week, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. An additional 32% say they attend once or twice a month, or a few times a year. These attendance levels are comparable to those of U.S. Christians, 47% of whom say they attend services weekly or more, and greater than the 14% of American Jews who say the same.

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

Aug 28, 2017 6:58 am

4 charts on how people around the world see education

(Dave Thompson/PA Images via Getty Images)
(Dave Thompson/PA Images via Getty Images)

Publics around the world disagree about which is more important to emphasize in school: creative thinking or basic academic skills and discipline. Here are four key findings about educational preferences from a 2016 Pew Research Center survey of 19 countries.

1Publics in advanced economies prefer creative education more than people in emerging economies do. Among advanced economies, half or more in six of the 14 countries surveyed said it is more important that schools teach students to be creative and think independently than to teach students basic academic skills and encourage discipline. By comparison, in all five of the emerging economies included in the survey, fewer than half said the same. Among advanced economies, Americans are in the middle of the pack: 48% support education that emphasizes creative and independent thinking and 42% prefer to prioritize basic academic skills.

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Topics: Education, Generations and Age, Educational Attainment, China, World Economies

Aug 25, 2017 1:30 pm

Most Americans say K-12 schools have a lot of responsibility in workforce preparation

As millions of U.S. students start school, and economists and educators grapple with how best to prepare workers for jobs in today’s economy, there is evidence that a majority of Americans look to elementary and secondary schools to provide the building blocks people need for a successful career.

Six-in-ten adults say the public K-12 education system has a lot of responsibility in making sure the U.S. workforce has the right skills and education to be successful in today’s economy, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in association with the Markle Foundation in 2016. The only entity or institution that more people say has a lot of responsibility is “individuals themselves,” cited by 72% of adults.

Americans express a bit more ambivalence toward the role of colleges and universities in workforce preparation, with around half of adults (52%) saying these higher-education institutions should have a lot of responsibility in making sure workers have the right skills and education to succeed. About half (49%) say employers should have a lot of responsibility in this role, but people are less likely to assign a lot of responsibility to state (40%) and federal governments (35%).

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Topics: Education, Work and Employment, Educational Attainment

Aug 24, 2017 2:31 pm

5 facts about student loans

Americans owed more than $1.3 trillion in student loans at the end of June, more than two and a half times what they owed a decade earlier. The increase has come as historically high shares of young adults in the United States go to college and the cost of higher education increases.

Here are five facts about student loans in America, based on a Pew Research Center analysis of recently released data from the Federal Reserve Board’s 2016 Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking:

1About four-in-ten adults under age 30 have student loan debt. Among adults ages 18 to 29, 37% say they have outstanding student loans for their own education. (This includes those with loans currently in deferment or forbearance, but excludes credit card debt and home and other loans taken out for education.) Looking only at young adults with a bachelor’s degree or more education, the share with outstanding student debt rises to 53%.

Student debt is less common among older age groups. Roughly one-in-five adults ages 30 to 44 (22%) have student loan debt, as do 4% of those 45 and older.

While age differences may partly reflect the fact that older adults have had more time to repay their loans, other research has found that young adults are also more likely now than in the past to take out loans to pay for their education. About two-thirds of college seniors ages 18 to 24 took out loans for their education in the 2011-2012 school year, up from about half in the 1989-1990 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

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Topics: Education, Economics and Personal Finances, Generations and Age, Educational Attainment

Aug 24, 2017 11:02 am

Jury duty is rare, but most Americans see it as part of good citizenship

(Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
(Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

The chances of serving on a jury in any given year are small, but most Americans still see it as part of being a good citizen.

In an April Pew Research Center survey, two-thirds of U.S. adults (67%) said serving on a jury “is part of what it means to be a good citizen.” Just 31% took the opposite view and said jury duty service “does not have much to do with being a good citizen.”

Majorities in most demographic groups connect jury duty service with good citizenship, but younger people, racial and ethnic minorities and those without a college education are less likely to do so.

For example, only half of those ages 18 to 29 say jury service is part of being a good citizen, compared with seven-in-ten or more in older age groups. Blacks and Hispanics are less likely than whites to see jury duty as a part of good citizenship, as are those with a high school diploma or less when compared with people with at least some college education.

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Topics: Democracy, Criminal Justice

Aug 23, 2017 11:31 am

In global popularity contest, U.S. and China – not Russia – vie for first

Gone are the days when America’s standing in the world was contrasted primarily with that of the Soviet Union. Instead, the United States and China now compete to be the more favored world power.

The U.S. and China engender roughly the same level of goodwill. China is particularly well-liked in Latin America and the Middle East, while the U.S. fares better in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

However, America’s weakening image in many nations has taken a toll on the country’s once-solid lead over China. And China’s own favorability has strengthened in recent years in Canada, Australia, Lebanon and Turkey.

Since the most recent year Pew Research Center polled in 36 nations – 2014, 2015 or 2016, depending on the country – the number of nations in which the U.S. holds a competitive advantage in favorability over China has halved, from 25 to 12. (Differences of less than 6 percentage points are considered ties.) Whereas the U.S. once had a 12-point lead over China in terms of a global median, that lead has shrunk in 2017 to 2 points.

In six nations – Spain, Mexico, Turkey, Australia, Peru and Senegal – the dynamic between the two superpowers has flipped, with China overtaking the U.S. in favorability.

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Topics: U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism, China, Global Balance of Power, Russia

Aug 22, 2017 2:47 pm

U.S. active-duty military presence overseas is at its smallest in decades

The number of active-duty U.S. military troops stationed overseas has dipped below 200,000 for the first time in at least 60 years. The decline, reflecting a broader one in active-duty U.S. forces, has occurred in multiple countries – including South Korea, which has become a focus of attention amid escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea.

There were around 1.3 million total active-duty U.S. military personnel in 2016. Of these, 193,442 – or 15% – were deployed overseas. That’s the smallest number and share of active-duty members overseas since at least 1957, the earliest year with comparable data, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of information from the Defense Manpower Data Center, a statistical arm of the Department of Defense.

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Topics: Wars and International Conflicts, Military and Veterans, Foreign Affairs and Policy

Aug 21, 2017 9:08 am

Highly ideological members of Congress have more Facebook followers than moderates do

The most liberal and conservative members of the 115th Congress have attracted more Facebook followers than moderates, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

In both legislative chambers, members’ ideology is a strong predictor of the number of people who follow them on Facebook. The most liberal and most conservative House members had a median of 14,361 followers as of July 25, compared with 9,017 followers for those in the middle of the ideological spectrum. The median number of followers for the Senate’s most liberal and conservative lawmakers was 78,360, while moderates had 32,626. (These figures reflect each member’s total number of followers since the creation of their official Facebook page, not the number gained since the 115th Congress began.)

The Center’s analysis determines each lawmaker’s ideology based on a score calculated through their congressional roll call votes. This widely employed measure, created by two political scientists in the 1980s, assigns each member a score that falls between -1 (most liberal) and +1 (most conservative).

The most ideological lawmakers in this analysis are defined as the 10% whose scores are farthest from zero, whether liberal or conservative, while the most moderate members are defined as those in the 10% closest to zero, again regardless of political leaning. The analysis only evaluates the number of followers for members’ official profile pages; it does not examine the number of followers for members’ campaign or unofficial Facebook pages, nor does it evaluate their Facebook posts. Following a member’s page translates into more exposure to that lawmaker’s messaging, as it increases the likelihood that the content shared by that member appears in a user’s Facebook feed.

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Topics: U.S. Political Parties, Federal Government, U.S. Political Figures, Online Communities, Politics Online, Data Labs

Aug 18, 2017 12:00 pm

6 trends in international public opinion from our Global Indicators Database

Since 2002, Pew Research Center has conducted more than 500,000 interviews with people in 64 countries to learn their views about international and domestic politics, economics and other front-burner topics. Our newly updated Global Indicators Database serves as an interactive repository of these findings. You can use the database to explore public opinion around the world on issues that interest you by country, region and subject area.

Explore the data: Global Indicators Database

 

Here are six noteworthy trends in global public opinion, drawn from the database:

1Views of the economy have rebounded in several large and economically powerful countries. In 2009, during the Great Recession, just 10% of Japanese, 17% of Americans and 28% of Germans rated their country’s current economic situation as good. By 2017, these shares had increased by at least 30 percentage points in each country, including a 58-point jump in Germany, where 86% of the public now describes the nation’s economy as good.

Favorable perceptions of the economy have also risen sharply in India, from 57% in 2013 (the earliest year for which data are available) to 83% today. In some other large countries, opinions have moved in the opposite direction. In Brazil, which has struggled with political and economic crises, just 15% of the public now rates the economy as good, down from 62% in 2010.

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Topics: U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism, International Governments and Institutions, International Survey Methods