Jan 24, 2017 11:10 am

115th Congress sets new high for racial, ethnic diversity

Incoming members of Congress walk down the steps of the House of Representatives after posing for a group photograph Nov. 15, 2016. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Incoming members of Congress walk down the steps of the House of Representatives after posing for a group photograph Nov. 15, 2016. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Almost one-in-five voting members of the House and Senate are a racial or ethnic minority, making the 115th U.S. Congress the most diverse in history. And while Congress as a whole remains  disproportionately white when compared with the U.S. population, the racial and ethnic profile of newly elected members more closely resembles the increasingly diverse populace, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

Overall, nonwhites (including blacks, Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans) make up 19% of the current Congress. By comparison, nonwhite Hispanics and other racial minorities make up 38% of the nation’s population.

Minorities, however, account for 20 of 59 new members (34%) of the House and Senate. This represents a notable jump over the 114th Congress, when just 11 of 71 new members (15%) were a racial or ethnic minority and the Senate had no newly elected minority members. This year, three freshman senators are a racial or ethnic minority, along with 17 new members of the House.  Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Demographics, Federal Government, U.S. Political Parties

Jan 23, 2017 3:50 pm

Obama issued fewer executive orders on average than any president since Cleveland

Obama signs an executive order in the Oval Office in March 2015. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Barack Obama averaged fewer executive orders per year in office than any U.S. president in 120 years. The executive orders he did issue, however, face an uncertain future under President Donald Trump, who has characterized some of Obama’s orders as “illegal and overreaching.”

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Topics: Barack Obama, Domestic Affairs and Policy, U.S. Political Figures

Jan 23, 2017 12:00 pm

Police, public differ on key issues but align on others

On issues ranging from an assault rifle ban to racial progress in the U.S., the public and the police stand on opposite sides of a wide attitudinal divide. At the same time, majorities of police officers and the public favor the use of body cameras, favor relaxing some restrictions on marijuana, and believe that long-standing bias against police was at least some of the motivation for the protests that followed many of the deaths of blacks during encounters with police in recent years.

The contrasting views and notable similarities between the attitudes of police and the public emerge from two Pew Research Center surveys. One was of 7,917 sworn police officers from departments with at least 100 officers conducted online last May to August by the National Police Research Platform, and the other was of 4,538 adults conducted by mail and online last August to September. The surveys included a number of identically worded questions, which allowed for direct comparisons of the views of officers and the public on a range of issues.

Among the more striking takeaways from these surveys was the very different way the police and the public view the deaths of blacks during encounters with police. Two-thirds of officers (67%) view these fatal encounters as isolated incidents, a view shared by only about four-in-ten Americans (39%).

The public and police diverge on a range of other issues, sometimes by even larger margins. For example, when it comes to the work police do day in and day out, 83% of Americans say they understand the risks and challenges that police face. Roughly the same share of police (86%), in a similarly worded question, say they believe the public does not understand the risks officers face on the job. This is among the largest gaps between police and the public found in these surveys. One example of this disconnect: More than eight-in-ten Americans (83%) believe the typical officer has fired his or her weapon at least once in their career. By contrast, about a quarter (27%) of officers say they have done so.
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Topics: Criminal Justice, Social Values, Violence and Society, Work and Employment

Jan 23, 2017 6:55 am

Two-thirds of Americans give priority to developing alternative energy over fossil fuels

President Donald Trump is promising major changes on climate and energy policy, including efforts to increase production from fossil fuel energy sources such as coal. But a new Pew Research Center survey finds that 65% of Americans give priority to developing alternative energy sources, compared with 27% who would emphasize expanded production of fossil fuel sources.

Support for concentrating on alternative energy is up slightly since December 2014. At that time, 60% said developing alternative energy sources was the more important priority.

There continue to be wide political differences on energy priorities. While a 2016 Pew Research Center survey found large majorities of Democrats and Republicans supported expanding both wind and solar energy, the new survey shows that Democrats remain far more likely than Republicans to stress that developing alternative energy should take priority over developing fossil fuel sources.

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Topics: Domestic Affairs and Policy, Energy and Environment, Political Polarization, U.S. Political Parties

Jan 20, 2017 2:39 pm

Obama used clemency power more often than any president since Truman

Barack Obama ended his presidency having granted clemency to more people convicted of federal crimes than any chief executive in 64 years. But he also received far more requests for clemency than any U.S. president on record, largely as a result of an initiative set up by his administration to shorten prison terms for nonviolent federal inmates convicted of drug crimes.

Overall, Obama granted clemency to 1,927 individuals, a figure that includes 1,715 commutations and 212 pardons. That’s the highest total for any president since Harry S. Truman, who granted clemency 2,044 times – including 1,913 pardons, 118 commutations and 13 remissions – during his nearly eight years in office, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Department of Justice statistics.

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Topics: Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Death Penalty, Religion and U.S. Politics, U.S. Political Figures

Jan 20, 2017 12:07 pm

Almost all U.S. presidents, including Trump, have been Christians

The U.S. Constitution famously prohibits any religious test or requirement for public office. Still, almost all of the nation’s presidents have been Christians and many have been Episcopalians or Presbyterians, with most of the rest belonging to other prominent Protestant denominations.

The nation’s new president, Donald Trump, certainly fits this pattern. Trump is the nation’s ninth chief executive to be affiliated with a Presbyterian church. Presbyterianism has its roots in England and Scotland and has been active in North America since the 17th century.  Read More

Topics: Religion and Government, Religion and U.S. Politics, Religious Affiliation

Jan 20, 2017 10:40 am

U.S. on track to reach Obama administration’s goal of resettling 110,000 refugees this year

Nearly 26,000 refugees entered the U.S. from October to December 2016, close to the quarterly average number of refugees needed to meet the Obama administration’s target of 110,000 refugee admissions in fiscal year 2017, according to data from the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.

The 2017 annual ceiling – the highest since 1995 – is significantly higher than last year’s ceiling of 85,000 refugee admissions. Administration officials said they wanted to increase refugee admissions to the U.S. due to the growing number of people displaced by conflicts around the world. In the first quarter of fiscal 2017 (October to December 2016), almost twice as many refugees have entered the U.S. as in the first quarter of the year before, when nearly 14,000 refugees entered the country.  Read More

Topics: Immigration, Immigration Trends, Middle East and North Africa, Migration, Syria, Wars and International Conflicts

Jan 20, 2017 7:02 am

6 things we’ve learned since the 2016 election

It has been a tumultuous 10 weeks since Donald Trump won his stunning election victory, and on Friday he will be inaugurated as the nation’s 45th president. Here are six important findings from our U.S. political surveys since the election.

1Trump remains historically unpopular. Trump ended the 2016 campaign with the worst favorability ratings in history, according to Gallup. Today, public views of how he has handled his transition to the White House are the lowest for any president dating back to George H.W. Bush.

Just 39% approve of the job Trump has done in explaining his plans and policies, while 41% approve of his high-level appointments, according to a Pew Research Center  national survey, conducted Jan. 4-9 among 1,502 adults. These opinions have changed little since December.

In January 2009, just before Barack Obama’s inauguration, 70% approved of the job he had done explaining his plans and policies for the future and 66% said they approved of his Cabinet selections.  Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Political Polarization, Presidential Approval, U.S. Political Figures, U.S. Political Parties

Jan 19, 2017 3:00 pm

6 facts about faith and the inauguration

President Obama places his hand on two Bibles held by first lady Michelle Obama as his recites the oath of office during swearing-in ceremonies on the West front of the U.S Capitol in Washington. (Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)
President Obama places his hand on two Bibles held by first lady Michelle Obama as he recites the oath of office before the U.S Capitol to begin his second term on Jan. 21, 2013. (Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)

The trappings of religion have long been part of U.S. presidential inaugurations. Amid the secular pomp that heralds the start of a presidency are prayer services, an invocation and benediction, and a traditional (if extraconstitutional) mention of God in the presidential oath of office.

As the country prepares for the inauguration of its 45th president, Donald Trump, here are six facts about faith and Inauguration Day events:

1Trump, a Presbyterian, plans to attend a private pre-inaugural prayer service with his family at St. John’s Episcopal Church, located a block from the White House. The pre-inaugural morning service is a tradition of sorts for St. John’s, which hosted similar events before the swearings-in of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The church, founded in 1815, claims that every sitting president since James Madison (who served from 1809 to 1817 as the fourth president) has attended a service there.  Read More

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Federal Government, Religion and Government, Religion and U.S. Politics

Jan 19, 2017 2:30 pm

Trump’s Cabinet will be one of most business-heavy in U.S. history

Should all of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees eventually be confirmed, he will start his administration with one of the most heavily business-oriented Cabinets in U.S. history.

Five of the 15 people Trump has nominated to be Cabinet secretaries have spent all or nearly all their careers in the business world, with no significant public office or senior military service on their résumés. That would be more businesspeople with no public-sector experience than have ever served in the Cabinet at any one time, according to a review and analysis by the Pew Research Center.

Before Trump, Ronald Reagan set the mark for bringing the most career businesspeople into the Cabinet. Four of Reagan’s initial 13 department heads in his first term were corporate executives. Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Business and Labor, Federal Government, U.S. Political Figures