Feb 26, 2016 11:09 am

Long Supreme Court vacancies used to be more common

Longest vacancies in Supreme Court seats

If Senate Republicans stick with their declared intention to not consider anyone President Obama might nominate to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, his seat on the court could remain vacant for a year or more. That would be the longest vacancy on the court in nearly five decades, but by no means the longest in U.S. history.

In fact, for much of the 19th century it was not uncommon for Supreme Court seats to be unoccupied for months at a time – or, in a few cases, years. But there were only two extended vacancies in the 20th century: the 391 days from the resignation of Abe Fortas in May 1969 to Harry Blackmun’s swearing-in in June 1970, and the 237 days from Lewis Powell’s retirement in June 1987 to Anthony Kennedy’s swearing-in in February 1988. The average duration of the 15 Supreme Court vacancies since 1970 has been just over 55 days – partly because it’s become common for departing justices to make their official retirements contingent on the confirmation of a successor. Read More

Topics: Supreme Court

Feb 25, 2016 11:55 am

A closer look at religion in the Super Tuesday states

Religious groups rarely vote as a fully unified bloc. For instance, in the South Carolina Republican primary, white evangelical Christian voters were split among those who voted for Donald Trump (34%), Ted Cruz (26%), Marco Rubio (21%) and others, according to exit polls.

But looking at the religious makeup of individual states, and at each party’s potential voters within a particular state, can still help in understanding the electoral landscape. Indeed, as voters for one or both parties in 12 states prepare to cast ballots or caucus on March 1 – Super Tuesday – we looked at data from Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study to help shed light on who might vote and their potential motivations.

Religious affiliation of Republicans in Super Tuesday states

Republicans in general tend to place a higher level of importance on religion than do Democrats, and this holds true across the Super Tuesday states. Two-thirds of Republicans and those who lean toward the GOP in these states (66%) say religion is very important to them, compared with 53% of Democrats. For Democrats and Democratic leaners, religion’s importance varies widely among states – from Vermont, where 21% of Democrats say religion is very important to them, to Alabama, where 84% of Democrats say the same. Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Religion and U.S. Politics

Feb 25, 2016 7:00 am

Public support for environmental regulations varies by state

Stricter environmental regulations are worth the cost, say most AmericansWhen it comes to potential trade-offs between the environment and the economy, most Americans say stricter environmental regulations are worth the cost, while fewer say stricter environmental regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy. But there are substantial differences in opinion about this issue from one state to the next that tell a different story than national surveys on the issue.

Generally, public attitudes on environmental regulation, as well the environment generally, are strongly linked with politics. Democrats and liberals are much more likely to support stricter environmental regulations, while Republicans and conservatives are by comparison more likely to say such regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy. Read More

Topics: Energy and Environment, Political Issue Priorities

Feb 24, 2016 1:01 pm

Scalia’s Supreme Court vacancy draws much public interest, unlike past open seats

2-22-2016-2-55-29-PMThe death of Justice Antonin Scalia, and the subsequent partisan wrangling over whether the Senate should act on any nominee sent to it by President Obama, has cast a spotlight on an institution that many people know little about.

As a Fact Tank post last year noted, the court “remains an institution whose members – and even the facts about some of its most important decisions – are a mystery to many Americans.” In a 2013 survey, 20% incorrectly identified staunch conservative Scalia, rather than Anthony Kennedy, as the court’s most frequent “swing vote.” And a Gallup poll last summer found that Scalia was unknown to 32% of Americans, while 12% had heard of Scalia but didn’t have an opinion about him.

But in a Pew Research Center survey released earlier this week, about seven-in-ten Americans said they had heard a lot (45%) or a little (26%) about Scalia’s death and the vacancy on the court; fully 94% expressed an opinion on whether the Senate should hold hearings and vote on Obama’s eventual nominee.  Read More

Topics: Supreme Court

Feb 24, 2016 10:00 am

Hispanic, black parents see college degree as key for children’s success

Hispanic and black parents are significantly more likely than white parents to say it’s essential that their children earn a college degree, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Hispanic and black parents place high value on a college degreeToday, 86% of Hispanic parents and 79% of black parents with children under 18 say it is either extremely or very important that their children earn a college degree. By comparison, about two-thirds (67%) of white parents say the same.

This gap may be linked to differing views on a college degree’s importance in moving up the economic ladder. Roughly half (49%) of Hispanics and 43% of blacks say that a college education is a requirement to be part of the middle class, compared with just 22% of whites. However, white adults are more likely than black or Hispanic adults to already be in the middle class or higher, which may account in part for the fact that fewer whites see college as essential.

Read More

Topics: African Americans, Education, Educational Attainment, Hispanic/Latino Identity, Middle Class, Race and Ethnicity, Social Values

Feb 24, 2016 7:00 am

For 2020, Census Bureau plans to trade paper responses for digital ones

The 2020 census could be the first in which most Americans are counted over the internet. In fact, if all goes as planned, the Census Bureau won’t even send paper questionnaires to most households.

Technological innovation may save Census Bureau $5 billion in 2020The bureau’s goal is that 55% of the U.S. population will respond online using computers, mobile phones or other devices. It will mark the first time (apart from a small share of households in 2000) that any Americans will file their own census responses online. This shift toward online response is one of a number of technological innovations planned for the 2020 census, according to the agency’s recently released operational plan. The plan reflects the results of testing so far, but it could be changed based on future research, congressional reaction or other developments.

Starting next month, the agency will conduct test censuses of 225,000 households each in Los Angeles County and Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston. Further tests are planned into 2019. The bureau also is testing use of other government or third-party records to supplement the census-taking, as well as experimenting with new question wording on race, ethnicity and relationships.

Read More

Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Federal Government, Government Spending and the Deficit, U.S. Census

Feb 23, 2016 11:59 am

U.S. religious groups and their political leanings

Mormons are the most heavily Republican-leaning religious group in the U.S., while a pair of major historically black Protestant denominations – the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and the National Baptist Convention – are two of the most reliably Democratic groups, according to data from Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study.

Explore the affiliations, demographics, religious practices and political beliefs of each group using our interactive database.

Seven-in-ten U.S. Mormons identify with the Republican Party or say they lean toward the GOP, compared with 19% who identify as or lean Democratic – a difference of 51 percentage points. That’s the biggest gap in favor of the GOP out of 30 religious groups we analyzed, which include Protestant denominations, other religious groups and three categories of people who are religiously unaffiliated.

At the other end of the spectrum, an overwhelming majority of members of the AME Church (92%) identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, while just 4% say they favor the Republican Party (an 88-point gap). Similarly, 87% of members of the National Baptist Convention and 75% of members of the Church of God in Christ (another historically black denomination) identify as Democrats. Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Evangelical Protestants and Evangelicalism, Jews and Judaism, Mormons and Mormonism, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation, Religion and U.S. Politics

Feb 23, 2016 10:28 am

Broad support for internet freedom around the world

In a relatively short period of time, the internet has become an influential arena for public debates about political and social issues. And around the world, many consider free expression in cyberspace to be a fundamental right.

Globally, most say internet freedom is importantMajorities in 32 of 38 countries surveyed by Pew Research Center in 2015 believe that allowing people to use the internet without government censorship is important. And in 20 countries, at least 80% hold this view. Moreover, across the nations polled, a median of 50% say freedom on the internet is very important.

Support for internet freedom is especially strong in Argentina (71% very important), the U.S., Germany and Spain (each 69%), and Chile (68%). In many countries, young people, those with more years of education and high-income respondents tend to place a higher value on internet freedom.

Even though support for internet freedom is common around the globe, it is not as strong as support for other fundamental aspects of democracy. Across the 38 countries in our study, larger percentages of people say religious freedom (median of 74%), gender equality (65%), honest and competitive elections (61%), free speech (56%) and media freedom (55%) are very important. Read More

Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Free Speech, Internet Activities

Feb 22, 2016 7:55 am

Emerging, developing countries gain ground in the tech revolution

A new Pew Research Center survey shows that across 40 countries surveyed in 2015, a median of 67% use the internet and 43% report owning a smartphone. But one trend stands out: People in emerging and developing nations are quickly catching up to those in advanced nations in terms of access to technology.

Here are five takeaways on technology use in the emerging and developing world:

1About half of adults across the 29 emerging and developing economies surveyed say that they use the internet. While many people are not yet experiencing the technology revolution, it also means most people in these countries now use the internet. Among the 21 countries surveyed in both 2013 and 2015, a median of only 45% had access in 2013, but that number had risen to 54% by 2015.

Read More

Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Internet Activities, Technology Adoption

Feb 19, 2016 4:57 pm

Americans feel the tensions between privacy and security concerns

Americans have long been divided in their views about the trade-off between security needs and personal privacy. Much of the focus has been on government surveillance, though there are also significant concerns about how businesses use data. The issue flared again this week when a federal court ordered Apple to help the FBI unlock an iPhone used by one of the suspects in the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, in December. Apple challenged the order to try to ensure that security of other iPhones remained protected, and also to provoke a wider national conversation about how far people would like technology firms to go in protecting their privacy or cooperating with law enforcement.

Public's shifting concerns on security and civil libertiesEvents have had a major impact on public attitudes on this issue. Terrorist attacks generate increased anxieties. For instance, the San Bernardino and Paris shootings in late 2015 had a striking impact. A Pew Research Center survey in December found that 56% of Americans were more concerned that the government’s anti-terror policies have not gone far enough to protect the country, compared with 28% who expressed concern that the policies have gone too far in restricting the average person’s civil liberties. Just two years earlier, amid the furor over Edward Snowden’s revelations about National Security Agency surveillance programs, more said their bigger concern was that anti-terror programs had gone too far in restricting civil liberties (47%) rather than not far enough in protecting the country (35%).

At the same time, there are other findings suggesting that Americans are becoming more anxious about their privacy, especially in the context of digital technologies that capture a wide array of data about them. Here is an overview of the state of play as the iPhone case moves further into legal proceedings. Read More

Topics: National Security, Online Privacy and Safety, Surveillance, Terrorism