As you scarf down burgers and potato salad this long Memorial Day weekend, consider this: Americans have the cheapest food in history, and that unprecedented abundance is largely responsible for why we’re so fat.
According to a new article in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, Americans in the 1930s spent a quarter of their disposable income on food. That share has fallen steadily through the decades, to the point where today less than 10% of Americans’ disposable dollars go for food. (That varies across income groups, of course: The poorest 20% of Americans still spend about a third of their disposable income on food.)
And even as the real cost of food goes down, each dollar we spend buys us more calories than it used to. The average American’s total caloric intake (adjusted for spoilage and other waste) rose from 2,109 calories in 1970 to 2,568 calories in 2010, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data — the equivalent of an extra steak sandwich every day. Little surprise, then, that more than 78 million U.S. adults, or 34.9%, were obese in 2011-12 — more than twice the rate found in a 1976-1980 health survey.
It’d be nice to think that all we as a people need to do is exercise more and eat more fruits and vegetables. But as the authors of the new paper point out, we’re already doing that: 51% of people in a 2009 study reported exercising regularly, up from 46% in 2001. Americans, as a whole, also ate more fresh fruits and vegetables in 2010 than they did in 197o (though again, that varies considerably among different groups). “[I]f people had access to more produce or cheaper produce, or just ate more of it, would they eat less candy and be thinner?” the researchers ask in conclusion. “Probably not.”
Category: Chart of the Week
Fifty years after Pope Paul VI traveled to the Holy Land on what was the first trip by a pope outside Italy since 1809, Pope Francis will make a pilgrimage to Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel this weekend.
This is only Francis’ second trip outside Italy – he went to Brazil last year for World Youth Day – but three of his predecessors have covered a significant percentage of the globe. Led by the prolific travels of Pope John Paul II, pontiffs have reached 135 different countries and territories at least once (not including Vatican City, Italy and San Marino) since 1964. Overall, popes have gone on 139 international trips with more than 250 official country visits, according to travel logs posted on the Vatican’s website.
Poland (10 visits), the United States (nine), Spain and France (eight each) are among the most frequent destinations, but popes also have traveled to small African nations such as Lesotho and Pacific islands such as Fiji. After this weekend, all four popes who’ve traveled outside Europe (Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis) will have visited the Holy Land.
Topics: Catholics and Catholicism
For almost three decades, the path to the White House has wound through the ivy-coated campuses of the United States’ elite universities. And despite the populist tinge of much of U.S. politics these days, that fact doesn’t appear to bother most Americans.
In a new Pew Research Center survey, a large majority — 74% — of Americans say it wouldn’t matter to them one way or another if a presidential candidate went to “a prestigious university such as Harvard or Yale.” About a quarter say it would matter: 19% say they’d be more likely to support such a candidate while 6% would be less likely. Those views have changed very little since 2007. Read More →
It’s been nearly a year since former Egyptian president and Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohamed Morsi, was removed from power by the country’s military, following huge demonstrations in Cairo and throughout the nation. On May 26-27, presidential elections will be held in Egypt, whose fairness has already been questioned and which will almost certainly result in victory for Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the former general who led the military takeover. As a new Pew Research Center survey highlights, most Egyptians still favor Morsi’s ouster, but the public mood is grim, and Sisi’s support is limited.
1Egyptians are about as unhappy with the direction of their country as they were back in spring 2010, less than a year before the revolution that toppled then President Hosni Mubarak, following 18 days of protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Today, 72% of Egyptians are dissatisfied with the country’s direction, while just 24% are satisfied. Read More →
This Sunday’s presidential election in Ukraine may do little to unite a nation riven by ongoing separatist movements in the country’s east, and haunted by the March secession of Crimea. Our April survey found that businessman Petro Poroshenko, the leading candidate – according to a local poll conducted earlier this month – is much more popular in the country’s west than in the east, where doubts are widespread not only about the candidates but the fairness of the election itself. Read More →
Topics: Eastern Europe
The round of Republican primaries held Tuesday has been headlined as a tide-turning victory of the GOP establishment over Tea Party insurgents, with the most notable one being the win scored in Kentucky by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell over a well-funded opponent. But whatever yesterday’s votes portend, polls have been showing a decline in Tea Party support among Republicans since their peak of influence in 2010.
In asking Republicans whether they agree or disagree with the Tea Party, Pew Research surveys found that agreement has fallen from 48% in March 2010 to 33% in our most recent poll conducted in late April this year. At one point agreement with the Tea Party dipped to 28% in May 2013, during the long budget standoff between congressional Republican leaders and the White House.
This decline continued a trend noted in several surveys that asked the question a different way: whether Republicans had a favorable or unfavorable view of the movement. Republicans with a favorable view declined from a peak of 64% in August 2011 to 53% last fall, according to our October 2013 poll. Read More →
A year ago today, the Pew Research Center launched Fact Tank, our very own data blog. Why? Because even though Pew Research publishes lots of reports, we still have a lot of data that are relevant to the things people are talking about in the news, online and with their friends, and we wanted to be a part of those conversations.
But “data” as a blog theme is tricky to get a handle on. After all, pretty much anything these days can be data, from your Facebook “likes” and Twitter comments to your fitness logs and flight delays. We wondered if people who love data about politics would visit a blog that also examined global affairs, U.S. demographics, religion, technology, journalism, economics and scores of other subjects through the prism of facts and figures. In other words, was there a big audience out there who loves data as much as we do?
Twelve months later, we’re happy to say the answer is yes. That’s you. Thanks for reading and engaging with us about data — our own and that of others. To mark the occasion and challenge our loyal readers, we’ve worked up a data quiz to see how much you know about the facts shaping our world, drawn from the 900 or so posts we’ve done since we launched. Warning: It won’t be easy. But you will feel smarter afterward. Take the quiz and share your score on Twitter with @FactTank.
As the 2016 presidential campaign ramps up, Republicans and Democrats have different wish lists when it comes to what traits they want in a candidate. Military service far and away tops the list for Republicans, while a significant share of Democrats would like to see a woman at the top of the ticket, a choice that has much less appeal for the GOP, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted last month.
Republican and Republican leaners respond strongly to military experience: 58% say they would be more likely to support a candidate with military experience, the top positive trait for Republicans of the 16 tested in the survey. Military experience also tops the list for Democrats and Democratic leaners, but they are not as enthusiastic as Republicans: 31% say they would be more likely to support a candidate who has served in the military, while 62% say this wouldn’t matter to them. While a positive for both Democrats and Republicans, military experience is not easy to find among the list of much-talked-about potential 2016 candidates.
The country’s ideological divide can be measured a lot of ways, such as by votes or how people stand on issues. But it can also be seen in the news stories that people follow and, last week, conservatives were more interested in the return of the Benghazi story, while liberals focused on coverage of the kidnappings in Nigeria and the uproar over the racial comments of Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling.
Roughly half of liberal Democrats followed news about the Nigerian kidnappings(48%) and Donald Sterling’s comments (47%) very closely. Fewer conservative Republicans paid very close attention to news about the kidnapping (28%) and Sterling’s comments (18%), according to a survey conducted May 15-18.
Topics: News Interest
The latest survey results from seven European Union countries reveal a wide range of views across the region about the economy, the future and the EU itself. Just ahead of the parliamentary elections, here’s a tour of the sentiment expressed by the public in each nation.
1The Brits are looking more upbeat
The British economy was particularly hard hit by recent economic crisis. In 2009, the economy shrunk by 5.2%. But in 2014, the UK economy is now expected to expand by 2.9%. Not surprisingly, there has been a parallel dramatic turnaround in the British mood in just the last year: 43% of Brits say the nation’s economy is now doing well, up 28 points since 2013.
And 45% expect continued improvement, up 23 points from the optimism expressed last year. What’s more, pessimism has fallen: Just 17% expect the economy to worsen, the lowest economic pessimism among the EU countries surveyed. An improved economic outlook may have bolstered support for the European project: Half of the British public now has a positive view of the European Union. Belief that European economic integration has been good for the UK is up 15 points. (This is particularly true among young Brits.) Read More →