Apr 27, 2017 10:05 am

Q&A: Using Google search data to study public interest in the Flint water crisis

How did Americans use Google to learn about the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, and how did their online searches evolve over time? These questions are at the center of a new Pew Research Center study that analyzes 18 months’ worth of Google search data to track public interest in the multilayered crisis in Flint.

Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research, Pew Research Center

While the study focuses on one particular news event, it sheds light on broader research questions, most prominently what aggregated internet search queries can tell us about how news spreads in today’s digital news environment. Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research at Pew Research Center, helped author the study; what follows is an edited interview with Mitchell about the methodology of the report.

Why did you focus on the Flint water crisis?

Although our research interests are broad, we felt using a case study would allow us to deeply examine the nuances of public interest in a news topic as the story unfolds. We wanted a story with many unique internet search keywords, as well as a precise geographic area, both of which tend to allow for more accurate tracking of internet search activity. We also hoped to have a news story that people could connect with at many levels. The Flint case meets these criteria. There are many search keywords that are specific to the Flint crisis. It also had a long timeline, evolved from a local issue to a national one and became a story with impact at the personal, community and political levels.

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Topics: Energy and Environment, Community Media, Digital Media, News Media Trends, Information Seeking, Online Search

Apr 26, 2017 11:13 am

Are you middle class in Western Europe? Try our country-by-country income calculators

The share of adults in the middle class varies considerably across Western Europe, according to a new Pew Research Center report. In 2010, the share was near 80% in Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway – the highest of the 11 Western European countries evaluated – and as low as 64% in Spain.

As part of the study, the Center designed income calculators to help you determine where you fit on the income ladder in Western Europe. To access a calculator, click on the graphic below and select your home country or country of interest.

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Topics: Europe, Western Europe, Economics and Personal Finances, Income, Economic Recession, World Economies, Socioeconomic Class, Income Inequality, Middle Class

Apr 26, 2017 9:32 am

Among white evangelicals, regular churchgoers are the most supportive of Trump

White evangelicals overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election and were a key part of his constituency. As his presidency nears the 100-day mark, surveys conducted since Trump’s inauguration tell a similar story.

Three-quarters of white evangelical Protestants approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center surveys conducted in February and April. This is nearly twice as high as the president’s approval rating with the general public (39%).

Trump’s support from evangelicals is strongest among those who attend church regularly. Eight-in-ten white evangelical Protestants who attend church at least once a month approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, including 67% who strongly approve of his job performance. White evangelical Protestants who attend church more sporadically approve of Trump’s job performance at a nearly comparable rate (71%), but they are significantly less likely than churchgoing evangelicals to strongly approve (54%).  Read More

Topics: U.S. Political Parties, Religion and U.S. Politics, Religious Affiliation, Christians and Christianity, Evangelical Protestants and Evangelicalism, Donald Trump

Apr 25, 2017 11:00 am

As Mexican share declined, U.S. unauthorized immigrant population fell in 2015 below recession level

The number of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in 2015 fell below the total at the end of the Great Recession for the first time, with Mexicans continuing to represent a declining share of this population, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on government data.

There were 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. in 2015, a small but statistically significant decline from the Center’s estimate of 11.3 million for 2009, the last year of the Great Recession. The Center’s preliminary estimate of the unauthorized immigrant population in 2016 is 11.3 million, which is statistically no different from the 2009 or 2015 estimates and comes from a different data source with a smaller sample size and a larger margin of error. This more recent preliminary data for 2016 are inconclusive as to whether the total unauthorized immigrant population continued to decrease, held steady or increased.

Unauthorized immigrants include those who enter the country without legal permission and those who overstay their legal visas. Declines in the number of unauthorized immigrants occur when people are deported, leave voluntarily, convert to lawful status or, in a small number of cases, die.  Read More

Topics: Immigration, Unauthorized Immigration, Immigration Trends, Population Trends, Migration

Apr 25, 2017 6:55 am

Support for free trade agreements rebounds modestly, but wide partisan differences remain

Americans’ support for free trade agreements, which fell sharply during the 2016 presidential campaign, has rebounded modestly. The partisan gap in views of trade agreements remains substantial, with Republicans far more likely than Democrats to have a skeptical view of these agreements.

Currently, 52% say free trade agreements between the United States and other countries are a good thing for the U.S., while 40% view them as a bad thing, according to a recent survey by Pew Research Center. In October, during the campaign’s final weeks, just 45% expressed positive opinions of free trade agreements. Current views of free trade remain less positive than they were in May 2015, when 58% said these agreements were good for the U.S.

Americans’ views of how free trade agreements have affected their families’ finances have shown less change in recent years. Today, 44% say free trade agreements have definitely or probably helped their financial situation, while 38% say they have definitely or probably hurt their finances.

These overall views have changed only modestly since 2015. Views of the personal financial impact of trade agreements were more negative during the Great Recession and its aftermath. In November 2010, for instance, only about a quarter (26%) said trade agreements had helped their finances, while 46% said these agreements had hurt their finances.  Read More

Topics: Globalization and Trade, U.S. Political Parties, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation, Foreign Affairs and Policy, Political Polarization

Apr 24, 2017 5:07 pm

7 key findings on the state of the middle class in Western Europe

The fortunes of the middle classes across Western Europe are moving in different directions. Some nations are experiencing both growing incomes and expanding middle classes, while other nations are witness to stagnant or declining incomes and shrinking middle classes, a new Pew Research Center analysis of 11 Western European countries has found. But in a few other countries studied, the middle-class shares are decreasing even as incomes overall are rising.

Interactives: Are you middle class in Western Europe?
Try our income calculators

For the analysis – which covers the period from 1991 to 2010 and includes comparisons with changes in the United States – “middle-class” or “middle-income” adults in a country are those who live in households with disposable (after-tax) incomes ranging from two-thirds to double the country’s median disposable household income. Thus, the income it takes to be middle class varies across countries. Also, estimates in the new report will not match those in the Center’s previous reports, which were based on a household’s gross (pretax) income.

Here are seven key findings in the new report:

1Among Western Europe’s six largest economies, the shares of adults living in middle-income households increased in France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, but they shrank in Germany, Italy and Spain. From 1991 to 2010, the middle-class share in the UK increased from 61% to 67%, but it decreased from 78% to 72% in Germany. Among the 11 Western European countries examined, the expansion in the UK was second only to the increase in Ireland, where the share increased from 60% in 1991 to 69% in 2010. The decrease in Germany was the second largest after Finland, where the middle-class share fell from 82% to 75% over the same period. Overall, the middle-class share of the adult population fell in seven of the 11 Western European countries examined, mirroring the long-term shrinking of the middle class in the U.S.  Read More

Topics: Europe, Western Europe, Economics and Personal Finances, Income, Economic Recession, Socioeconomic Class, Income Inequality, Middle Class

Apr 24, 2017 1:00 pm

5 facts about the death penalty

Capital punishment is legal in a majority of U.S. states, including in two states – California and Nebraska – where voters decided to retain it in the 2016 election. Nationally, however, public support for the death penalty has fallen in recent years, as has the number of executions.

The death penalty has been back in the news recently as Arkansas carried out its first execution since 2005 – one of eight inmates the state originally planned to put to death over the course of 11 days this month. Courts have since intervened and temporarily halted some of the executions.

As the debate over the death penalty continues in the U.S. and worldwide, here are five facts about the issue:

1The annual number of U.S. executions peaked at 98 in 1999 and has fallen sharply in the years since. In 2016, 20 inmates were executed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. That’s the lowest annual total since 1991, when 14 people were executed. Just five states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Missouri and Texas – accounted for all executions in 2016, compared with 20 states in 1999.

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Religion and U.S. Politics, Criminal Justice, Death Penalty

Apr 21, 2017 10:01 am

Smartphones are common in advanced economies, but digital divides remain

When Pew Research Center surveyed 14 advanced economies in the spring of 2016, one thing was clear: In each of the countries surveyed, nearly all people reported owning a mobile phone. But the shares who own a smartphone vary considerably.

Among the countries surveyed, people in Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain and Australia reported the highest smartphone ownership rates, at roughly eight-in-ten in each country. Nearly as many Americans (77%) said they owned a smartphone, a number that more than doubled since 2011. (A smartphone is defined as a mobile phone that can access the internet or use an app, examples being an iPhone, Android-enabled device or Windows phone. For complete list of examples, see appendix.)

Rates of smartphone ownership were considerably lower in some of the other countries surveyed. About half in Poland (52%) owned a smartphone, though that figure is up significantly since the question was first asked in 2013, when only 21% reported owning a smartphone. And while pluralities in 13 of the 14 countries surveyed reported owning a smartphone, regular mobile devices are still fairly common in Greece (43%), Hungary (41%), and Poland and Japan (both 37%).

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Topics: Technology Adoption, Digital Divide, Mobile

Apr 21, 2017 6:59 am

5 charts showing where France’s National Front draws its support

Marine Le Pen, National Front candidate for the French presidential election, addresses supporters at the start of a conference in Nantes, France, on Feb. 26. (David Vincent/AP)
Marine Le Pen, National Front candidate for the French presidential election, addresses supporters at the start of a conference in Nantes, France, on Feb. 26. (David Vincent/AP)

The first round of the French presidential election, which takes place this Sunday, will be the next big test of whether the kind of populist wave that swept Donald Trump into the White House and carried Britain out of the European Union can maintain its momentum. Five major candidates are competing to qualify for the May 7 second round, which will feature Sunday’s top two performers.

Current polls show a tight race, but most observers believe one of the two runoff candidates will be Marine Le Pen from the populist, far-right National Front. Led for many years by Marine’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the National Front has a history of anti-Semitism and xenophobia, although the younger Le Pen has tried to soften its image somewhat in recent years, even expelling her father from the party for his extreme statements.

In a 2016 Pew Research Center survey only about a quarter of French citizens (23%) expressed a favorable opinion of the National Front. The same poll provided insights into who favored the National Front and where they stood on key issues such as France’s Muslim community, globalization and the European Union.

1Support for the National Front is somewhat stronger among men, the less educated, and Catholics – though even among these groups, support is limited. In 2016, support stood at 28% among men, 26% among those with no college degree and 27% among self-identified Roman Catholics.

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Topics: Europe, Globalization and Trade, Immigration Attitudes, Political Attitudes and Values, Non-U.S. Political Leaders, Foreign Affairs and Policy, National and Cultural Identity

Apr 20, 2017 4:01 pm

For Earth Day, here’s how Americans view environmental issues


The 1970s were an important era for American environmentalism. Congress passed the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, President Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency, and the nation observed its first Earth Day – created by Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson – on April 22, 1970.

Nearly a half century later, Earth Day has expanded across the globe, with dozens of countries holding events, ranging from river clean-ups to rallies addressing climate change. Ahead of this year’s events, here are six findings about the public’s views about the environment:

1Overall, Americans support protecting the environment, but there are deep partisan divides on the issue. In a Pew Research Center survey conducted last year, about three-quarters of U.S. adults (74%) said “the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment,” compared with 23% who said “the country has gone too far in its efforts to protect the environment.”

Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents have consistently been more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment. But as Republican support has decreased since 2004, the gap between the two groups has widened to 38 percentage points.  Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Energy and Environment, U.S. Political Parties, Federal Government, Political Issue Priorities