Feb 15, 2018 10:04 am

Q&A: The growing use of ‘voter files’ in studying the U.S. electorate

(Saul Gravy/Getty Images)
(Saul Gravy/Getty Images)

Since the rise of modern survey research three-quarters of a century ago, much of what we know about voter attitudes has been based on interviews with random samples of voters, sometimes combined with tallies of actual votes and the characteristics of voters in particular locations. But relatively new technologies and public policy changes have given pollsters, academics and other researchers – not to mention candidates and political professionals – a potentially powerful new tool for probing the electorate: digital databases that claim to cover most of the U.S. adult population.

Despite their widespread use, these national databases (commonly called “voter files”) are little known by the general public and haven’t received much scholarly attention. Pew Research Center’s Ruth Igielnik, a research associate, and Senior Survey Advisor Scott Keeter recently released an extensive study of the completeness and accuracy of commercially available voter files, which they assessed by matching participants from the Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel to five different voter files. We asked Keeter and Igielnik to talk about their work, including how voter files are built and what they’re used for. Their replies have been edited for clarity and concision. Read More

Topics: Voter Participation, Research Methods

Feb 13, 2018 4:00 pm

8 facts about love and marriage in America

The landscape of relationships in America has shifted dramatically in recent decades. From cohabitation to same-sex marriage to interracial and interethnic marriage, here are eight facts about love and marriage in the United States.

1Love tops the list of Americans’ reasons to marry. About nine-in-ten Americans (88%) cited love as a very important reason to get married, ahead of making a lifelong commitment (81%) and companionship (76%), according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey. Fewer said having their relationship recognized in a religious ceremony (30%), financial stability (28%) or legal rights and benefits (23%) were very important reasons to marry.

However, being a good financial provider was seen as particularly important for men to be a good husband or partner, according to a 2017 survey by the Center. About seven-in-ten adults (71%) said it was very important for a man to be able to support a family financially to be a good husband or partner, while just 32% said the same for a woman to be a good wife or partner.

As far as what helps people stay married, married adults said in a 2015 survey that having shared interests (64%) and a satisfying sexual relationship (61%) were very important to a successful marriage. More than half (56%) also named sharing household chores.

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Lifestyle, Family and Relationships, Marriage and Divorce

Feb 8, 2018 7:01 am

ICE arrests went up in 2017, with biggest increases in Florida, northern Texas, Oklahoma

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents take a man into custody in Downey, California, in April 2017. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents take a man into custody in Downey, California, in April 2017. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

After years of decline, the number of arrests made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) climbed to a three-year high in fiscal 2017, according to data from the agency. The biggest percentage increases were in Florida, northern Texas and Oklahoma.

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations made a total of 143,470 arrests in fiscal 2017, a 30% rise from fiscal 2016. The surge began after President Donald Trump took office in late January: From his Jan. 20 inauguration to the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, ICE made 110,568 arrests, 42% more than in the same time period in 2016.

Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 25 that expanded ICE’s enforcement focus to most immigrants in the U.S. without authorization, regardless of whether they have a criminal record. Under President Barack Obama, by contrast, ICE focused its enforcement efforts more narrowly, such as by prioritizing the arrests of those convicted of serious crimes.

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Topics: Criminal Justice, Immigration

Feb 7, 2018 7:00 am

5 facts about the religious lives of African Americans

Attendees at the annual session of the National Baptist Convention in 2016. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Attendees at the annual session of the National Baptist Convention in 2016. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

This is one of an occasional series of posts on black Americans and religion.

Religion, particularly Christianity, has played an outsize role in African American history. While most Africans brought to the New World to be slaves were not Christians when they arrived, many of them and their descendants embraced Christianity, finding comfort in the Biblical message of spiritual equality and deliverance. In post-Civil War America, a burgeoning black church played a key role strengthening African American communities and in providing key support to the civil rights movement.

For Black History Month, here are five facts about the religious lives of African Americans.

1Roughly eight-in-ten (79%) African Americans self-identify as Christian, as do seven-in-ten whites and 77% of Latinos, according to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study. Most black Christians and about half of all African Americans (53%) are associated with historically black Protestant churches, according to the study. Smaller shares of African Americans identify with evangelical Protestantism (14%), Catholicism (5%), mainline Protestantism (4%) and Islam (2%).

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Topics: Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Race and Ethnicity

Feb 6, 2018 10:00 am

Use of election forecasts in campaign coverage can confuse voters and may lower turnout

Early morning voters wait to cast their ballots on Election Day. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
Early morning voters wait to cast their ballots on Election Day. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Americans have long been familiar with “horse race” polls that accompany elections in the United States. But since 2008, a new polling tool has gained prominence, one that not only suggests which candidate is ahead at any given moment but also estimates their probability of winning the eventual election.

These probabilistic forecasts can give potential voters the impression that one candidate will win more decisively and may even lower the likelihood that they vote, according to a new study by Sean Westwood of Dartmouth, Yphtach Lelkes of the University of Pennsylvania and Solomon Messing of Pew Research Center.

The use of such probabilistic forecasts was a constant in coverage of the 2016 presidential race, with an average of 16 mentions per day in cable news broadcasts, according to the study. And at least in 2016, outlets with more liberal audiences featured more coverage. Forecasters uniformly favored Hillary Clinton to capture the White House, with odds ranging from 70% to 99%.

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Topics: Election News, Research Methods, Data Labs

Feb 1, 2018 11:00 am

There’s a large gender gap in congressional Facebook posts about sexual misconduct

As disclosures about sexual misconduct emerged last year, 44% of all members of Congress raised the issue on their official Facebook accounts. But the percentage of women legislators who discussed the topic in their official Facebook posts was almost twice as high as the percentage of men in Congress who did so (72% vs. 37%), according to a Pew Research Center analysis of 44,792 posts published between Oct. 1 and Dec. 30, 2017.

There were wide gaps across the two major parties: 55% of Democratic members and 34% of Republican members made posts about the topic. In both parties, the shares of women who discussed sexual misconduct on Facebook were 30 percentage points larger than the shares of men who did so.

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Topics: Congress, Social Media, Federal Government

Jan 31, 2018 11:01 am

More adults now share their living space, driven in part by parents living with their adult children

American adults are increasingly sharing a home with other adults with whom they are not romantically involved. This arrangement, known as “doubling up” or shared living, gained notice in the wake of the Great Recession, and nearly a decade later, the prevalence of shared living has continued to grow.

While the rise in shared living during and immediately after the recession was attributed in large part to a growing number of Millennials moving back in with their parents, the longer-term increase has been partially driven by a different phenomenon: parents moving in with their adult children.

In 2017, nearly 79 million adults (31.9% of the adult population) lived in a shared household – that is, a household with at least one “extra adult” who is not the household head, the spouse or unmarried partner of the head, or an 18- to 24-year-old student. In 1995, the earliest year with comparable data, 55 million adults (28.8%) lived in a shared household. In 2004, at the peak of homeownership and before the onset of the home foreclosure crisis, 27.4% of adults shared a household.

A shared household is defined somewhat differently from a multigenerational household (although the two can overlap), as shared households can include unrelated adults and adult siblings. More adults live in shared households than multigenerational households: In 2014, 61 million Americans (including children) resided in multigenerational households.

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Topics: Family and Relationships, Household and Family Structure

Jan 30, 2018 3:00 pm

5 facts about crime in the U.S.

Donald Trump made crime fighting an important focus of his campaign for president, and he cited it again during his January 2017 inaugural address. As the administration takes steps to address violence in American communities, here are five facts about crime in the United States.

1Violent crime in the U.S. has fallen sharply over the past quarter century. The two most commonly cited sources of crime statistics in the U.S. both show a substantial decline in the violent crime rate since it peaked in the early 1990s. One is an annual report by the FBI of serious crimes reported to police in approximately 18,000 jurisdictions around the country. The other is an annual survey of more than 90,000 households conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which asks Americans ages 12 and older whether they were victims of crime, regardless of whether they reported those crimes to the police.

Using the FBI numbers, the violent crime rate fell 48% between 1993 and 2016. Using the BJS data, the rate fell 74% during that span. (For both studies, 2016 is the most recent full year of data.) It’s important to note that the FBI reported a 7% increase in the violent crime rate between 2014 and 2016, including a 20% rise in the murder rate —from 4.4 to 5.3 murders per 100,000 residents. The BJS figures do not show an increase in the violent crime rate between 2014 and 2016, but they do not count murders. The BJS figures for 2016 also reflect a survey redesign, making it difficult to compare directly to prior years.

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Topics: Criminal Justice, Violence and Society

Jan 30, 2018 11:00 am

More Americans oppose than favor increased offshore drilling

Shell's Perdido offshore drilling and production platform in the Gulf of Mexico southwest of Houston. (Gary Tramontina/Corbis via Getty Images)
Shell’s Perdido offshore drilling and production platform in the Gulf of Mexico southwest of Houston. (Gary Tramontina/Corbis via Getty Images)

More Americans now oppose (51%) than favor (42%) allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in mid-January. The share of Americans who favor expanded offshore oil and gas drilling has declined 10 percentage points since 2014.

Attitudes about expanded offshore oil and gas drilling are divided by age and party, as well as by where people live. People who live within 25 miles of a coastline are less supportive of offshore drilling than are those who live farther from a coast.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are overwhelmingly in favor of expanding offshore drilling for oil and gas. Seven-in-ten say they favor allowing more drilling, and only a quarter say they oppose it, according to the survey of 1,503 adults conducted Jan. 10-15.

Democrats and Democratic leaners show the opposite pattern. Only 22% of Democrats favor allowing more offshore drilling and 71% oppose it. Among Democrats, whites are stronger in their opposition than blacks and Hispanics (77% of white Democrats oppose expanded drilling, compared with 57% of black Democrats and 65% of Hispanic Democrats).

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Jan 29, 2018 4:02 pm

State of the Union 2018: Americans’ views on key issues facing the nation

President Donald Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address on Jan. 30 in the House of Representatives chamber at the U.S. Capitol. (Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address on Jan. 30 in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol. (Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address on Tuesday – a speech that millions of Americans will watch closely. Earlier this month, about three-in-ten (31%) said in a Pew Research Center survey that this year’s speech is “more important” than those in past years, compared with 18% who said it is less important (43% said it’s about as important as past State of the Union addresses). Here is a look at public opinion on important issues facing the country, drawn from the Center’s recent surveys:

1The economy and jobs: Americans’ views of economic conditions are more positive than they have been in recent years. An October survey found 41% of Americans rating economic conditions in the country as “excellent” or “good,” near the highest point in a decade. The public’s improving economic outlook is reflected in its policy agenda for Trump and Congress in the coming year. Economic issues – improving the job situation, strengthening the economy and reducing the budget deficit – are now viewed as less important policy priorities than they were just a few years ago, according to a survey conducted earlier this month.

The public’s view of local job availability has also improved substantially in recent years. In October, half of Americans said there are plenty of jobs available in their communities – the highest assessment in Pew Research Center surveys dating to 2001. Despite the public’s brighter outlook on jobs, however, there has been little change in the share of Americans (49%) who say their family’s income is falling behind the cost of living.

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Topics: Federal Government, Foreign Affairs and Policy, Domestic Affairs and Policy