Dec 14, 2016 1:05 pm

Most Americans favor stricter environmental laws and regulations

Crews clean oil from the beach at Refugio State Beach on May 20, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from a nearby pipeline. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images
Crews clean oil from the beach at Refugio State Beach on May 20, 2015, north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from a nearby pipeline. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

More Americans say environmental regulations are “worth the cost” than say such regulations come at too steep a price, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. These views come amid speculation about what President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees may mean for future regulatory policy.

A majority of U.S. adults (59%) say stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost, compared with roughly a third (34%) who say such regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy, according to the survey, conducted Nov. 30 to Dec. 5.

Education level and age are both associated with perceptions of environmental regulations. Younger adults and those with more education are more likely than older adults and those with less education to say stricter environmental laws are worth the cost.

Opinion also differs across party lines. Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (78%) see stricter environmental laws as worth the cost, while a majority of Republicans and Republican leaners (58%) say stricter environmental regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy.  Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Business and Labor, Domestic Affairs and Policy, Energy and Environment, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Polarization

Dec 14, 2016 10:29 am

Q&A: The Muslim-Christian education gap in sub-Saharan Africa

(Courtesy of Melina Platas)
(Courtesy of Melina Platas)

Pew Research Center’s new study on educational attainment among the world’s major religious groups finds a large gap between Muslims and Christians in sub-Saharan Africa, a region in which the population is projected to grow rapidly over the next few decades. This gap has persisted for decades, and for more insight into possible reasons, we interviewed Melina Platas, an assistant professor of political science at New York University Abu Dhabi. Platas’ research centers on variations in economic and political development in developing countries; since 2005, she has focused on sub-Saharan Africa.

How do you think the history of Islam and Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa may have had an impact on education for Muslims and Christians?

The distribution of Christian missionary schools, many of which formed the basis of the education sector in independent Africa, had a profound and long-term effect on educational attainment. Missionary schools were often sparse in predominantly Muslim areas for political and geographic reasons. In many cases, Muslims had already established their own Islamic education systems, and sometimes political systems as well. In these areas, colonial authorities often limited educational investments, especially by Christians, either to avoid conflict or because of perceived low demand for Western-style education. These patterns of educational investment during the colonial period led, I believe, to the emergence of the education gap between Muslims and Christians.

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Topics: Christians and Christianity, Education, Educational Attainment, Muslims and Islam, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Sub-Saharan Africa

Dec 14, 2016 6:59 am

Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa are twice as likely as Christians to have no formal education

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to large and growing populations of Christians and Muslims that often live side by side. But when it comes to education levels, there is a big gulf between the two groups: Muslim adults are more than twice as likely as Christians to have no formal schooling.

Among adults ages 25 and older, three-in-ten Christians in sub-Saharan Africa have not completed even a year of primary schooling (30%). But among Muslims in the region, fully 65% have no formal education – a 35-percentage-point difference with Christians, a new Pew Research Center analysis has found.  Read More

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Education, Educational Attainment, Muslims and Islam, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Sub-Saharan Africa

Dec 13, 2016 1:30 pm

Americans still favor ties with Cuba after Castro’s death, U.S. election

In the aftermath of Fidel Castro’s death and the election of Donald Trump, Americans continue to express support for the recent thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations. Yet the U.S. public remains skeptical about whether the island nation will become more democratic in the coming years.

Three-quarters of U.S. adults (75%) approve of the decision last year to re-establish U.S. relations with Cuba, while nearly as many (73%) favor ending the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, according to a new national survey by Pew Research Center conducted Dec. 1-5.

These views are similar to attitudes about U.S. relations with Cuba in July 2015, following the decision to renew diplomatic ties. At that time, 73% approved of the re-establishment of U.S diplomatic relations with Cuba, and 72% favored an end to the trade embargo.

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Topics: 2016 Election, Democracy, Foreign Affairs and Policy, Globalization and Trade, International Governments and Institutions, Latin America, Non-U.S. Political Leaders, Political Issue Priorities

Dec 13, 2016 12:02 pm

What’s on your table? How America’s diet has changed over the decades

Americans eat more chicken and less beef than they used to. They drink less milk – especially whole milk – and eat less ice cream, but they consume way more cheese. Their diets include less sugar than in prior decades but a lot more corn-derived sweeteners. And while the average American eats the equivalent of 1.2 gallons of yogurt a year, he or she also consumes 36 pounds of cooking oils – more than three times as much as in the early 1970s.

Americans’ eating habits, in short, are all over the place, at least according to our analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data. Which is about what you’d expect, judging from the results of Pew Research Center’s recent survey on food and nutrition attitudes. In that survey, 54% of Americans said people in the U.S. pay more attention to eating healthy foods today compared with 20 years ago – the same percentage who said Americans’ actual eating habits are less healthy today than they were 20 years ago. And while 73% of Americans said they were very or fairly focused on healthy and nutritious eating, 58% said that most days they probably should be eating healthier.

So how do Americans really eat, and how has that changed over time? We analyzed data from the USDA’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, or FADS, to find out. (Specifically, we used food availability adjusted for waste, spoilage and other loss as a proxy for consumption.) While the nation’s eating habits don’t change all that much from year to year, looking at them over 40 or more years shows some significant changes. Read More

Topics: Health

Dec 13, 2016 10:09 am

Key findings on how world religions differ by education

While there are big gaps in average education levels among different religious groups, these disparities have been narrowing in recent decades because those at the bottom made the biggest educational strides. A new Pew Research Center study, analyzing data from 151 countries, looks at education levels of Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and religiously unaffiliated adults ages 25 and older. The demographic study also examines changes in educational attainment over three recent generations.

Here are five key takeaways from the report:

1When measured by years of formal schooling, Jews have the highest average educational attainment, while Muslims and Hindus have the lowest. Christians have the second highest average years of schooling, followed by religiously unaffiliated adults and then Buddhists.

However, across three recent generations, Muslims and Hindus have made the biggest educational gains of all the religious groups studied. The youngest members of these two faith groups (those born between 1976 and 1985) have almost twice as many years of schooling as their oldest peers (those born between 1936 and 1955). Read More

Topics: Buddhists and Buddhism, Christians and Christianity, Educational Attainment, Gender, Hindus and Hinduism, Jews and Judaism, Muslims and Islam, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Religiously Unaffiliated

Dec 12, 2016 11:00 am

Most Americans haven’t heard of the ‘alt-right’

News of the political movement known as the alt-right has sparked considerable debate in recent weeks, with President-elect Donald Trump drawing criticism for naming a senior adviser who is associated with it and media outlets wrestling with how to define and refer to it. Most Americans, however, haven’t heard of the movement at all.

A majority (54%) of U.S. adults say they have heard “nothing at all” about the “alt-right” movement and another 28% have heard only “a little” about it, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Just 17% say they have heard “a lot” about the movement.

Liberal Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are far more likely than other Democrats to have heard about the movement. Two-thirds of liberal Democrats (66%) have heard a lot or a little about it, compared with fewer than half of conservative or moderate Democrats (39%) and just four-in-ten Republicans and Republican leaners overall (40%).

Among those who say they have heard “a lot” or “a little” about the alt-right, roughly a third (34%) associate the movement with “white supremacy” or “white nationalism.” That was the most common answer provided in an open-ended question asking respondents about their impressions of what the movement stands for, ahead of “racism” or “prejudice” (14%) and “extreme right-wing movement” (12%).  Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Polarization, U.S. Political Parties

Dec 9, 2016 11:02 am

People concerned about GM foods are particularly skeptical of information from food industry

The food industry is big business – and many Americans cast a skeptical eye toward the information it provides to the public about genetically modified (GM) foods.

A new Pew Research Center survey finds most Americans have limited trust in information from food industry leaders. Only one-in-ten (10%) say they trust food industry leaders a lot to provide full and accurate information on the health effects of GM foods and another 32% say they trust information from food industry leaders some. A majority (57%) do not trust information from food industry leaders too much or at all. And people who are deeply concerned about the issue of GM foods are especially distrustful of information from the food industry.

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Topics: Business and Labor, Emerging Technology Impacts, Health, Science and Innovation

Dec 8, 2016 3:15 pm

Republicans, Democrats find common ground on many provisions of health care law

The Affordable Care Act has drawn mixed reviews from the U.S. public since it became law in 2010, and a new Pew Research Center survey finds that Americans remain split in their opinions about the law and its future. But while President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal the health care law, individual provisions are broadly popular, even across partisan lines.

Overall, Americans are evenly divided in their views of the ACA: 48% approve of it while 47% disapprove, according to the survey, conducted Nov. 30 to Dec. 5. Views of the law remain largely divided by party, as they have been since 2009, even before the law was enacted. Today about three-quarters (73%) of Democrats approve of the law, while 85% of Republicans disapprove. Independents are roughly as likely to approve (52%) as disapprove (45%), though independent views of the law have grown more positive in the wake of the election.

Americans are also split over what Congress should do with the law next. Overall, 39% say the law should be repealed, while as many (also 39%) say it should be expanded. Just 15% say it should be left as-is. Not surprisingly, Democrats and Republicans also disagree on this question: About half of Democrats (53%) say Congress should expand it, while 76% of Republicans would like to see it repealed.  Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Domestic Affairs and Policy, Health Care, Political Issue Priorities, Political Party Affiliation, Political Polarization

Dec 8, 2016 12:41 pm

GOP gained ground in middle-class communities in 2016

Republican candidate for vice president Mike Pence campaigns in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 6, 2016. Photo credit: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Then-GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence campaigns in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 6, 2016. Photo credit: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The Republican Party made deep inroads into America’s middle-class communities in 2016. Although many middle-class areas voted for Barack Obama in 2008, they overwhelmingly favored Donald Trump in 2016, a shift that was a key to his victory. Meanwhile, Democrats had more success retaining a loose “coalition” of lower-income and upper-income communities.

These findings emerge from a new Pew Research Center analysis that correlates how counties voted with the Center’s estimates of the size of the middle class in U.S. metropolitan areas. Post-election reporting has covered the role of white working-class or college-educated voters in the election, but this analysis focuses on how the middle class shifted allegiance over the course of Obama’s two terms as president.

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Topics: 2016 Election, Income, Political Polarization, Population Geography, U.S. Political Parties, Voter Demographics, Voter Participation