Aug 23, 2017 11:31 am

In global popularity contest, U.S. and China – not Russia – vie for first

Gone are the days when America’s standing in the world was contrasted primarily with that of the Soviet Union. Instead, the United States and China now compete to be the more favored world power.

The U.S. and China engender roughly the same level of goodwill. China is particularly well-liked in Latin America and the Middle East, while the U.S. fares better in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

However, America’s weakening image in many nations has taken a toll on the country’s once-solid lead over China. And China’s own favorability has strengthened in recent years in Canada, Australia, Lebanon and Turkey.

Since the most recent year Pew Research Center polled in 36 nations – 2014, 2015 or 2016, depending on the country – the number of nations in which the U.S. holds a competitive advantage in favorability over China has halved, from 25 to 12. (Differences of less than 6 percentage points are considered ties.) Whereas the U.S. once had a 12-point lead over China in terms of a global median, that lead has shrunk in 2017 to 2 points.

In six nations – Spain, Mexico, Turkey, Australia, Peru and Senegal – the dynamic between the two superpowers has flipped, with China overtaking the U.S. in favorability.

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Topics: U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism, China, Global Balance of Power, Russia

Aug 22, 2017 2:47 pm

U.S. active-duty military presence overseas is at its smallest in decades

The number of active-duty U.S. military troops stationed overseas has dipped below 200,000 for the first time in at least 60 years. The decline, reflecting a broader one in active-duty U.S. forces, has occurred in multiple countries – including South Korea, which has become a focus of attention amid escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea.

There were around 1.3 million total active-duty U.S. military personnel in 2016. Of these, 193,442 – or 15% – were deployed overseas. That’s the smallest number and share of active-duty members overseas since at least 1957, the earliest year with comparable data, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of information from the Defense Manpower Data Center, a statistical arm of the Department of Defense.

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Topics: Wars and International Conflicts, Military and Veterans, Foreign Affairs and Policy

Aug 21, 2017 9:08 am

Highly ideological members of Congress have more Facebook followers than moderates do

The most liberal and conservative members of the 115th Congress have attracted more Facebook followers than moderates, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

In both legislative chambers, members’ ideology is a strong predictor of the number of people who follow them on Facebook. The most liberal and most conservative House members had a median of 14,361 followers as of July 25, compared with 9,017 followers for those in the middle of the ideological spectrum. The median number of followers for the Senate’s most liberal and conservative lawmakers was 78,360, while moderates had 32,626. (These figures reflect each member’s total number of followers since the creation of their official Facebook page, not the number gained since the 115th Congress began.)

The Center’s analysis determines each lawmaker’s ideology based on a score calculated through their congressional roll call votes. This widely employed measure, created by two political scientists in the 1980s, assigns each member a score that falls between -1 (most liberal) and +1 (most conservative).

The most ideological lawmakers in this analysis are defined as the 10% whose scores are farthest from zero, whether liberal or conservative, while the most moderate members are defined as those in the 10% closest to zero, again regardless of political leaning. The analysis only evaluates the number of followers for members’ official profile pages; it does not examine the number of followers for members’ campaign or unofficial Facebook pages, nor does it evaluate their Facebook posts. Following a member’s page translates into more exposure to that lawmaker’s messaging, as it increases the likelihood that the content shared by that member appears in a user’s Facebook feed.

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Topics: U.S. Political Parties, Federal Government, U.S. Political Figures, Online Communities, Politics Online, Data Labs

Aug 18, 2017 12:00 pm

6 trends in international public opinion from our Global Indicators Database

Since 2002, Pew Research Center has conducted more than 500,000 interviews with people in 64 countries to learn their views about international and domestic politics, economics and other front-burner topics. Our newly updated Global Indicators Database serves as an interactive repository of these findings. You can use the database to explore public opinion around the world on issues that interest you by country, region and subject area.

Explore the data: Global Indicators Database


Here are six noteworthy trends in global public opinion, drawn from the database:

1Views of the economy have rebounded in several large and economically powerful countries. In 2009, during the Great Recession, just 10% of Japanese, 17% of Americans and 28% of Germans rated their country’s current economic situation as good. By 2017, these shares had increased by at least 30 percentage points in each country, including a 58-point jump in Germany, where 86% of the public now describes the nation’s economy as good.

Favorable perceptions of the economy have also risen sharply in India, from 57% in 2013 (the earliest year for which data are available) to 83% today. In some other large countries, opinions have moved in the opposite direction. In Brazil, which has struggled with political and economic crises, just 15% of the public now rates the economy as good, down from 62% in 2010.

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Topics: U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism, International Governments and Institutions, International Survey Methods

Aug 17, 2017 9:55 am

5 facts about the national debt

(Andrew Caballero/AFP/Getty Images)
(Andrew Caballero/AFP/Getty Images)

Congress and the White House have until the end of September to raise the national debt limit before the federal government is faced with the prospect of either not paying its bondholders on time or deferring other bills. Here’s a primer on the U.S. national debt, the debt limit and interest payments on the nation’s credit line:

1As of July 31, the federal government’s total debt stands at $19.845 trillion, according to the Treasury Department’s monthly reckoning. Nearly all of it is subject to the statutory debt ceiling, which is currently set at just under $19.809 trillion. As a result, as of the end of July there was just $25 million in unused debt capacity remaining.

2The nation’s debt is now bigger than its gross domestic product, which was an estimated $19.23 trillion in the second quarter. Debt as a share of GDP rose steeply during and after the 2008 financial crisis. Since 2013 it has equaled or exceeded GDP, which had not been seen since the end of World War II.

3Though U.S. government debt is perhaps the most widely held class of security in the world, as of the end of July 27.6% of the debt (about $5.48 trillion) is owed to another arm of the federal government itself. The single biggest creditors, in fact, are Social Security’s two trust funds, which together held more than $2.9 trillion in special non-traded Treasury securities, or 14.7% of the total debt. (Social Security revenues exceeded benefit payments for many years; the surplus was required by law to be invested in Treasuries.) Another big holder: the Federal Reserve system, which as of early August collectively held nearly $2.5 trillion worth of Treasuries, or 12.4% of the total debt. (The Fed’s holdings are included in the “debt held by public” category.)

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Economic Policy, National Economy, Government Spending and the Deficit

Aug 17, 2017 6:59 am

God or the divine is referenced in every state constitution

The U.S. Constitution never explicitly mentions God or the divine, but the same cannot be said of the nation’s state constitutions. In fact, God or the divine is mentioned at least once in each of the 50 state constitutions and nearly 200 times overall, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

All but four state constitutions – those in Colorado, Iowa, Hawaii and Washington – use the word “God” at least once. The constitutions in Colorado, Iowa and Washington refer to a “Supreme Being” or “Supreme Ruler of the Universe,” while Hawaii’s constitution makes reference to the divine only in its preamble, which states that the people of Hawaii are “grateful for Divine Guidance.”

Most state constitutions – 34 – refer to God more than once. Of the 116 times the word appears in state constitutions, eight are in the Massachusetts constitution, and New Hampshire and Vermont have six references each. Perhaps surprisingly, all three of these states are among the least religious in the country, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center analysis.

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Topics: Religion and Society, Religion and Government, Religion and U.S. Politics, State and Local Government

Aug 16, 2017 1:30 pm

Salaries have risen for high-skilled foreign workers in U.S. on H-1B visas

U.S. employers planned to pay high-skilled foreign workers with H-1B visas a median salary of $80,000 a year in fiscal year 2016, up from about $69,000 a decade earlier, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data.

This is the first time the U.S. government has made salary information about H-1B applicants publicly available. Most H-1B applicants get approved for visas, so the data provide a window into the salaries of high-skilled foreign workers employed in the United States.

The 2016 median salary reported for H-1B visa applicants was higher than the median salary paid to some U.S. workers in similar high-skill occupations. For example, U.S. workers in computer and mathematical occupations had a median salary of $75,036 in fiscal 2016, a slight increase from 2007, when the median salary was $73,979 (adjusted to 2016 dollars), according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on all U.S. workers. The majority (60%) of all H-1B applicants from fiscal 2007 to 2016 were seeking employment in computer and mathematical occupations.

The H-1B visa program is the primary way employers in the U.S. hire high-skilled foreign workers. The program allows employers to hire foreigners to work for up to six years in jobs that require highly specialized knowledge, and workers’ employment may be extended if they have green card applications pending. To participate, employers first submit applications to the U.S. Department of Labor attesting that no U.S. citizen worker would be displaced by the prospective foreign worker. The application is then reviewed by USCIS before the State Department interviews the foreign worker and issues the visa.

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Topics: Immigration, Work and Employment, Immigration Trends, Business and Labor, Migration

Aug 16, 2017 10:02 am

How Pew Research Center surveyed 1,000 U.S. Muslims

Muslims account for only about 1% of the U.S. population, which makes it tricky for polling organizations like Pew Research Center to survey them. Adding to the challenge, most U.S. Muslims are immigrants, some of whom may not feel comfortable discussing their religion in English on the phone with strangers.

In this short video, Pew Research Center researchers explain how they overcame these obstacles to produce the Center’s wide-ranging new survey of 1,001 American Muslims. The survey, fielded from January to May, finds that U.S. Muslims are generally happy with many aspects of their lives in the United States, even as they perceive substantial discrimination against them.

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Topics: Research Methods, Religious Affiliation, Muslims and Islam, Telephone Survey Methods

Aug 14, 2017 1:00 pm

Like most Americans, U.S. Muslims concerned about extremism in the name of Islam

Most Americans are worried about Islamic extremism, and most Muslim Americans share these concerns.

About eight-in-ten U.S. Muslims (82%) say they are either very (66%) or somewhat concerned (16%) about extremism committed in the name of Islam around the world, about the same as the share of the general public that feels this way (83%), according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Only about one-in-six U.S. Muslims (17%) and Americans overall (15%) say they are “not too” or “not at all” concerned about extremism carried out in the name of Islam worldwide. Among both groups, concern about extremism is up 10 percentage points since the Center’s last survey of U.S. Muslims in 2011.

Muslim American women are particularly worried about global extremism in the name of Islam. Nearly nine-in-ten U.S. Muslim women (89%) say they are at least somewhat concerned about it, up 16 points since 2011. A smaller share of U.S. Muslim men (75%) say they feel this way.  Read More

Topics: Religion and Society, Terrorism, Religious Extremism, Muslims and Islam, Muslim Americans

Aug 10, 2017 7:06 am

John Kelly’s military background is unusual for a White House chief of staff

Before becoming President Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly had served as a U.S. Marine Corps general who commanded the U.S. Southern Command. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
Before becoming President Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly had served as a U.S. Marine Corps general and head of the U.S. Southern Command. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s new chief of staff, John Kelly, brings an uncommon resume to the job. A retired Marine general, Kelly is the first chief of staff in more than four decades to come from the upper ranks of the military, and unlike most of his predecessors he has no prior work experience in the White House or campaign politics.

The majority of chiefs of staff to date – 19 – previously worked in other White House roles, such as deputy chief of staff or adviser to the president, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of their biographical information. This group also includes three former White House budget directors: Leon Panetta, who served as chief of staff to Bill Clinton; Joshua Bolten, chief of staff to George W. Bush; and Jack Lew, who served under Barack Obama. (Lew had served as budget director twice – once under Clinton and once under Obama – before becoming Obama’s chief.)

Another common steppingstone for the White House chief of staff job is campaign work, with 14 chiefs having previously worked in electoral politics. This group includes Reince Priebus, Trump’s first chief, who had earlier served as chairman of the Republican National Committee and the Wisconsin Republican Party. It also includes James Baker, who famously became Ronald Reagan’s first chief of staff despite having earlier run two political campaigns against Reagan.

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Topics: U.S. Political Figures, Military and Veterans, Donald Trump