Feb 25, 2014 1:25 pm

Arizona bill sparks debate about religious objections to gay marriage

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Arizona, but the state has quickly become the center of a national debate surrounding the issue after its legislature passed a “religious freedom” bill last week. The measure, which Gov. Jan Brewer must decide by Friday whether to sign into law, would allow business owners to cite religious beliefs as a reason for denying services – including to same-sex couples – without fear of legal retribution.

Arizona is not alone. Several other states – including Kansas, Tennessee, Oregon, Idaho and South Dakota – have considered similar measures recently, with some bills mentioning marriage specifically. For instance, South Dakota’s bill – since rejected – said businesses would not be required to provide services “related to the…celebration of any marriage…if such action would cause any such person or personal business to violate the person’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”

None of those states currently allow same-sex marriage, but legislators’ efforts may be preemptive. A growing percentage of Americans (72%, according to a May 2013 Pew Research survey) see legal recognition of same-sex marriage as “inevitable.”

Majorities in Most Religious Groups Say Same-Sex Marriage Would Violate Religious Beliefs

More than half of Americans (56%) say same-sex marriage would go against their religious beliefs, according to a survey we conducted in March 2013. But about half of those who say that same-sex marriage goes against their beliefs also say that gay couples should have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.

States that have legalized same-sex marriage often have included exemptions for religious groups and clergy who oppose it, and courts have interpreted the U.S. Constitution to include broad protections that allow religious groups not to participate in same-sex marriages. But, so far, exemptions have not been granted to businesses and religious business owners, some of which have faced lawsuits alleging discrimination.

One of these cases involves a New Mexico photographer, Elaine Huguenin, who for religious reasons refused a request by a lesbian couple to photograph their commitment ceremony. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled last year that Huguenin violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws and either had to start serving same-sex couples or close down; she has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review her case and is awaiting their answer. So far, courts in similar cases in other states also have sided with same-sex couples and against businesses.

Nearly a quarter of LGBT Americans (23%) say they have received poor service in a restaurant, hotel or other place of business because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Topics: Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Feb 25, 2014 12:46 pm

Venezuelans gloomy about their standard of living, nation’s economy


Just a third of Venezuelans say their standard of living is improving, a record low.

The massive protests sweeping Venezuela come at a time when many in that country have an increasingly dark view of both their own standard of living and the direction of the nation’s economy.

A record low 33% of Venezuelans said their standard of living was improving, according to a Gallup poll conducted last fall and released Tuesday. Just a year earlier, 54% had said their standard of living was improving.

Pessimism about the economy also runs high. About six-in-ten (62%) Venezuelans said the economy was getting worse, a huge increase compared with the 22% who held that view in 2012.

Beyond the economy, fear of crime contributes to Venezuelans’ unhappiness. In the Gallup poll, eight-in-ten said they did not feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where they lived, while those saying they did feel safe dropped from 34% in 2011 to 19%.

Category: Daily Number

Topics: Latin America

Feb 25, 2014 11:37 am

Data Feed: Cheating on taxes, consumer confidence, foreign languages in U.S. cities

A daily roundup of fresh data from scholars, governments, think tanks, pollsters and other social science researchers.

NY voters split on Common Core, support moratorium; crosstabs, Siena
Americans’ views of Romney little changed since 2012 election, Gallup
Christie approval down 15 points since bridge scandal broke, Monmouth Univ.
Confidence in Congress, presidency has plummeted in past decade, Fox News

Consumer confidence index declines moderately, The Conference Board
Home prices up 11.3% in 2013, but fell 0.3% in Q4, S&P/Case-Shiller
Economists align on monetary policy but not fiscal issues, NABE
The ups and downs of U.S. military spending, The New Republic
U.S. net oil imports at lowest level since 2009, Energy Information Administration
Business leaders say knowledge trumps college pedigree, Gallup
State hiring credits have mixed record in spurring job growth, San Francisco Fed
Legalizing unauthorized immigrants would boost job market for natives, NBER
Volunteer rate declines to 25.4% in year ending September 2013, BLS

Read More

Category: Data Feed

Feb 24, 2014 2:40 pm

Plurality of Americans support current level of defense spending


A plurality of Americans say defense spending should be kept at current levels.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s plans to cut back the size of America’s army to pre-World War II levels are likely to run into political opposition on Capitol Hill. The cuts are also at odds with the views of Americans who say spending should be kept as it is, or increased.

Almost half (47%) of the public said military spending should be kept about the same, according to a survey conducted Oct. 30-Nov. 6, 2013. An additional 23% said it should be increased while 28% favored reductions. The findings reflect roughly the same sentiment found in a survey conducted a year ago.

FT_Defense_SpendingAlmost equal numbers of Republicans (50%) and Democrats (47%) favored keeping military spending the same, but they differed sharply when it came to those who wanted to see increases or decreases. Nearly four-in-ten Democrats (39%) would cut the Pentagon budget compared with only 10% of Republicans, while 37% of Republicans would increase defense spending compared with 12% of Democrats.

As a backdrop to the public’s views on military spending, the October-November survey found that 56% of Americans said the U.S. should ensure that it keeps its position as the only military superpower, a view that was virtually unchanged since 2009.

Opinion was more mixed on the question of whether the U.S. relies too much on military strength. About four-in-ten (43%) said American use of its military power was about right while 38% said it was too much and 15% said it was too little.

However, when the military spending question was put into the context of a specific choice — whether reducing the deficit was more important than funding the Pentagon at current levels — Americans said by a 51% to 40% margin that deficit reduction was more important, according to a December 2013 survey.

Category: Daily Number

Topics: Government Spending and the Deficit

Feb 24, 2014 1:15 pm

Just 28% of Republicans believe GOP advocates its principles well

FT_Democrats_Republicans_TraditionCongressional Republicans’ unhappiness with their party’s performance has been evident for months. Most recently, just 12 percent of House Republicans voted for a bill to raise the debt ceiling, whose scheduled vote resulted in at least one Tea Party group calling for Speaker John Boehner’s removal.

GOP members of Congress aren’t the only Republicans disappointed with the party’s policies. In January, even before the debt ceiling vote, just 28% of Republicans and Republican leaners said the GOP was doing a good or excellent job in standing up for its traditional positions of smaller government, tax-cutting and conservative social values, while seven-in-ten (70%) rated their party’s job as “only fair” or “poor.”

Read More

Topics: Congress, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation

Feb 24, 2014 11:36 am

Data Feed: Marijuana gains in Ohio, Maryland; more jobs for law-school grads; women’s commuting patterns

A daily roundup of fresh data from scholars, governments, think tanks, pollsters and other social science researchers.

Fewer Americans think Obama is respected on world stage, Gallup
About half of Ohio voters favor legal marijuana, same-sex marriage, Quinnipiac
Nearly half of Marylanders say pot should be legal, topline, The Washington Post
Healthcare premium differentials could affect midterm elections, The Wall Street Journal

Brighter job picture for this year’s law-school grads — if they worked last summer, WSJ
Another look at retiring Boomers and labor force participation, Business Insider
Energy trade is a key part of overall U.S. trade flows, Energy Information Administration

Read More

Category: Data Feed

Feb 21, 2014 3:58 pm

More hate crimes motivated by victims’ ethnicity


In about half of the cases of reported hate crimes, victims believed their ethnic background motivated the offender.

Motivations behind hate crimes have shifted significantly in recent years, with the biggest jump in hate crimes that, according to the victims, were based on ethnicity bias. Ethnicity, defined as a victim’s “ancestral, cultural, social or national affiliation,” was cited as a reason in 51% of cases reported in 2012, up from 30% in 2011 and 22% in 2004, according to a new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

HateCrimes_motivesIn addition to the big jump in ethnicity as a motivation, the percentage of hate crimes where the perceived cause was religious bias nearly tripled — from 10% in 2004 to 28% in 2012. Over the same period, the percentage of hate crimes rooted in gender bias more than doubled, from 12% to 26%. There were a total of 293,790 reported hate crimes in 2012, up from 218,010 in 2011 and 281,670 in 2004.

Changes were much less dramatic for other hate-crime motives tracked by the government. Hate crimes in which race and sexual orientation were cited showed a decline between 2004 and 2012, from 58% to 46%, while hate crimes motivated by a person’s disability remained about the same (11%). The BJS noted that in many cases, victims reported more than one bias motivation for the same crime.

Category: Daily Number

Topics: Criminal Justice, Discrimination and Prejudice

Feb 21, 2014 2:02 pm

Chart of the Week: How metro areas drive the U.S. economy


It probably should come as no surprise that most U.S. economic activity is concentrated in metropolitan areas. What may be surprising, and what the map above shows so clearly, is just how concentrated in a handful of big metros the U.S. economy is.

Reddit user Alexandr Trubetskoy based this map on metro-area GDP estimates by consulting firm IHS Global Insight (in a report prepared for the U.S. Conference of Mayors). Six metro areas — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., Dallas and Houston — account for almost a quarter of the nation’s $16.8 trillion economy; add in the next 17 highest-ranked metros, and you account for about half of all economic activity.

This is a revision of Trubetskoy’s original map, which showed a rather stark 50-50 GDP split but, he said, had some methodological and mapping issues. But no matter how you slice the data, U.S. metropolitan areas are economic powerhouses. In the report referred to above, IHS noted that the combined GDP of the nation’s 10 largest metros exceeds the combined output of 36 states; the New York metro area alone produced more than all of Spain.

Category: Chart of the Week

Topics: National Economy

Feb 21, 2014 11:31 am

Data Feed: Clinton’s public image, consumer spending and education, cat bites and depression

A daily roundup of fresh data from scholars, governments, think tanks, pollsters and other social science researchers.

Two-term presidents: Job approval over eight years, Cook Political Report
Hillary Clinton maintains positive image among Americans, Gallup
How Congress voted on the spending and debt limit bills, The Washington Post

Leading indicators up 0.3% in January after no change in December, Conference Board
Federal debt projected to grow to 79% of GDP by 2024 under current law, CBO
How consumers’ spending patterns vary by educational level, Bureau of Labor Statistics
2.1 million farms tallied for 2012, down 4.3% from 2007, USDA
20 zip codes where it is cheaper to buy than rent, The Washington Post
Natural gas booming in U.S. but coal power fades, Bloomberg
Updated marriage bonus/penalty tax calculator, Tax Policy Center

Read More

Category: Data Feed

Feb 20, 2014 2:45 pm

Q/A: How Pew Research mapped the conversations on Twitter

Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project

Twitter, which didn’t exist eight years ago, now has 241 million monthly active users around the globe who collectively generate more than half a billion tweets each day. Getting a handle on that massive volume of messaging was the challenge facing researchers at the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project. The project’s new report, produced in collaboration with the Social Media Research Foundation, identifies six basic patterns that Twitter conversations fall into. But as Lee Rainie, the project’s director, notes, the report should be seen as a first effort at understanding the Twitterverse rather than as a definitive typology. He compares the years-long endeavor to 18th- and 19th-century explorers charting unknown lands.

In this Q&A, Rainie explains how the Twitter report came together and what it means.

Q: Why even attempt to map Twitter conversations? What’s the value here?

A: For 14 years the Internet Project has been documenting the rise of networked society, and the use of social media within that networked society. Information has a highly social context and a highly social structure. This is a way to gain insight into flows of information within the context of social relationships. Over time we’ll develop more understanding of what these structures mean.

Social media is its own terrain, and one possible expectation is that we can create an atlas of this new terrain. People who use social media can use these maps to figure out where they stand. If you’re a political actor, you can ask whether a polarized structure is the best one for your cause or candidate. If you’re a business actor, you might say “Look at all these isolated people talking about me but not with anybody else – maybe it would serve me well to try to build a community around my brand.” Read More

Topics: Internet Activities, Social Media, Social Networking