Dec 23, 2015 7:00 am

Americans are in the middle of the pack globally when it comes to importance of religion

U.S. is in the middle of pack when it comes to importance of religion in people's livesMore than half of Americans (53%) now say religion is very important in their lives, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. While this figure has declined somewhat in recent years – down from 56% in 2007 – Americans remain in the middle of the pack in terms of importance of religion when compared with people around the world.

In fact, the share of Americans who say religion is very important is close to the global median of respondents who say this in a separate survey.

By this measure, Americans place less importance on religion in their lives than do people in a number of countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. For example, nearly universal shares of Ethiopians (98%), Senegalese (97%) and Indonesians (95%) say religion is very important, as do eight-in-ten or more Nigerians (88%), Filipinos (87%) and Indians (80%).

Countries where religion is broadly seen as important have a variety of religious makeups, ranging from predominantly Christian nations like the Philippines, to mostly Muslim countries like Indonesia, to Hindu-majority India and even to some religiously mixed countries like Nigeria.

Meanwhile, religion is considerably more important to Americans than to residents of many other Western and European countries, as well as other advanced economy nations, such as Japan.

Generally, poorer nations tend to be religious; wealthy less so, except for U.S.

Overall, people in wealthier nations tend to place less importance on religion than those in poorer nations. However, the United States – the wealthiest nation included in the 2015 global survey based on gross domestic product per capita – is a notable exception to this trend. Americans are much more likely than their counterparts in other economically advanced nations to say religion is very important. About twice as many or more Americans say religion is very important in their lives compared with the share of people who say this in Australia (18%), Germany (21%) and Canada (27%), the next three wealthiest countries included in our survey.

The U.S. — which, like much of Europe, has been experiencing a rise in the share of people who say they have no religion — is also near the middle when it comes to the share of people who say religion is “not too” or “not at all” important in their lives. About one-in-five Americans (22%) say this, compared with a global median of 13%. In 14 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, few, if any, say religion is not too or not at all important in their lives. By comparison, France (61%), Japan (58%) and Australia (56%) are among several countries where majorities say religion is not too or not at all important to them.

Note: See here for topline results on importance of religion and methodology.

Topics: International Governments and Institutions, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Dec 22, 2015 7:00 am

15 striking findings from 2015

Every year, we look back at our research to select the most memorable facts that illustrate important trends shaping our world. At Pew Research Center, the topics we analyze range from the specific subjects of video gaming and family caregivers to broader areas like political attitudes, global climate change and religious affiliation.

It’s a hard task to select just 15, but here are some of our most striking findings of 2015:

1Just 19% of Americans say they can trust the federal government always or most of the time. That’s among the lowest levels in over 50 years. The long-term erosion of public trust is mirrored by a steep decline in the belief that the government is run for the benefit of all Americans.

2The American middle class is shrinking. After more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the U.S. middle class is now matched in size by those in the economic tiers above and below it. A separate analysis also finds that globally, the middle class is more promise than reality. (See where you fit in the U.S. and worldwide with our interactive calculators.)

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Topics: Federal Government, Generations and Age, Immigration, Immigration Trends, Income, Mexico, Middle Class, Muslims and Islam, News Audience Trends and Attitudes, News Media Trends, News Sources, Population Projections, Race and Ethnicity, Religious Affiliation, Science and Innovation, Social Media, Terrorism, Trust in Government

Dec 21, 2015 3:45 pm

Where Christian churches, other religions stand on gay marriage

The Supreme Court ruling earlier this year legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide has continued to raise questions about how the decision will affect religious groups – especially those that remain opposed to allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed. The court’s ruling makes clear that clergy and religious organizations are not obliged to perform same-sex marriages, but some groups have expressed concerns about their tax-exempt status.

Where Major Religions Stand on Same-Sex MarriageMany of the largest U.S. religious institutions have remained firmly against allowing same-sex marriage, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Jewish movement and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as the Southern Baptist Convention and other evangelical Protestant denominations. The nation’s largest historically black church, the National Baptist Convention, and its biggest Pentecostal denomination, the Assemblies of God, also prohibit their clergy from marrying same-sex couples.

At the same time, in the past two decades, several other religious groups also have moved to allow same-sex couples to marry within their traditions. This includes the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ.

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Topics: Buddhists and Buddhism, Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Evangelical Protestants and Evangelicalism, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Hindus and Hinduism, Jews and Judaism, Mormons and Mormonism

Dec 21, 2015 7:00 am

5 facts about Christmas in America

Wherever Americans stand on holiday-time debates about Starbucks cups, zombie nativity scenes and billboards encouraging people to skip church, it would be hard to disagree that Christmas is still a big part of many people’s lives this time of year.

Just in time for the holidays, here are five facts about Christmas in America and how people celebrate:

1About nine-in-ten Americans (92%) and nearly all Christians (96%) say they celebrate Christmas, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey. This is no surprise, but what might be more unexpected is that a big majority (81%) of non-Christians in the U.S. also celebrate Christmas. This includes 87% of people with no religion and even about three-quarters of Asian-American Buddhists (76%) and Hindus (73%). Roughly a third of U.S. Jews (32%) – many of whom have non-Jewish spouses – said in a 2013 survey that they had a Christmas tree in their homes during the most recent holiday season. Among Americans overall, about half (51%) say they celebrate Christmas as more of a religious holiday, while roughly a third (32%) say it is more of a cultural holiday to them personally. Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Dec 18, 2015 9:55 am

Many Millennials see Christmas as more cultural than religious holiday

Is Christmas more a religious or cultural holiday?Millennials are less religious than older Americans and less likely to identify with a religious group, and those traits are reflected in the way they celebrate Christmas. Nine-in-ten Millennials say they take part in Christmas, but only four-in-ten say they do so mainly as a religious holiday, according to a survey we conducted in 2013.

Belief that Jesus Christ was born to a virginThat stands in contrast to those in older generations, who in some cases are more likely to say they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, attend religious services for Christmas and believe Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, according to a new look at the data. Read More

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Generations and Age, Millennials

Dec 18, 2015 7:00 am

Most U.S. Christian groups grow more accepting of homosexuality

Almost all Christian groups now more accepting of homosexualityAcceptance of homosexuality is rising across the broad spectrum of American Christianity, including among members of churches that strongly oppose homosexual relationships as sinful, according to an extensive Pew Research Center survey of U.S. religious beliefs and practices.

Amid a changing religious landscape that has seen a declining percentage of Americans who identify as Christian, a majority of U.S. Christians (54%) now say that homosexuality should be accepted, rather than discouraged, by society. While this is still considerably lower than the shares of religiously unaffiliated people (83%) and members of non-Christian faiths (76%) who say the same, the Christian figure has increased by 10 percentage points since we conducted a similar study in 2007. It reflects a growing acceptance of homosexuality among all Americans – from 50% to 62% – during the same period.

Among Christians, this trend is driven partly by younger church members, who are generally more accepting of homosexuality than their elder counterparts. For example, roughly half (51%) of evangelical Protestants in the Millennial generation (born between 1981 and 1996) say homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared with a third of evangelical Baby Boomers and a fifth of evangelicals in the Silent generation. Generational differences with similar patterns also are evident among Catholics, mainline Protestants and members of the historically black Protestant tradition. Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Evangelical Protestants and Evangelicalism, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Mormons and Mormonism

Dec 17, 2015 9:55 am

5 key takeaways about parenting in changing times

The landscape of the American family has changed dramatically in recent decades. In the wake of these changes, a new Pew Research Center report looks at the challenges parents face in raising their children and how parenting approaches differ across demographic groups.

Here are some key findings from the report:

1A declining share of children live in two-parent households. Today, 69% of children younger than 18 are living with two parents, down from 87% in 1960. A record-low 62% of children live with two married parents, while 7% live with two cohabiting parents. Meanwhile, the share of children living in single-parent households has increased threefold, from 9% in 1960 to 26% in 2014.

The rising prevalence of divorce, remarriage and cohabitation has caused other changes in family living arrangements, even among those living in two-parent households. In 2014, fewer than half of children (46%) lived in a household with two married parents in their first marriage, down from 73% in 1960. Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Parenthood, Socioeconomic Class, Teens and Youth

Dec 17, 2015 7:00 am

Views on gaming differ by race, ethnicity

About half of U.S. adults (49%) report playing video games on a computer, television, game console or mobile device, and whites, blacks and Hispanics are all equally likely to say they have done so, according to a new Pew Research Center report. But there are some differences among those groups when it comes to how they see gaming.

Today’s gaming population is a more diverse one than in previous years because smartphones and tablets have had a mainstreaming effect on who plays games, according to Dmitri Williams, associate professor at the University of Southern California’s School for Communication and Journalism. But one of the gaps that stand out is between those who play games and those who self-identify as a gamer, Williams said.

Blacks somewhat more likely to find positive attributes in video games, less likely to say they are a waste of timeHispanics are more likely than whites or blacks to categorize themselves as gamers. Some 19% of Hispanics say the term “gamer” describes them well, compared with 11% of blacks and 7% of whites. (Pew Research Center also found that identifying as a gamer varies by gender and age.)

Racial and ethnic differences are evident in other areas. Hispanics are the most likely racial or ethnic group to see a link between violent video games and actual violence. Half (52%) of Hispanics agree with the statement that people who play violent video games are more likely to be violent themselves, compared with 39% of blacks and 37% of whites.

Across several questions, blacks generally hold more positive views about video games. Some 19% of blacks say that most games promote teamwork and communication, compared with 10% of Hispanics and 8% of whites. Blacks are also more inclined to agree that most video games help develop good problem solving and strategic thinking skills – 22% hold this view, versus 18% of Hispanics and 15% of whites. Read More

Topics: Online Gaming, Race and Ethnicity

Dec 16, 2015 2:15 pm

Americans’ views of Fed depend on their politics

The U.S. Federal Reserve
Photo Credit: Hisham Ibrahim, Getty Images

Conservative Republicans skeptical of the Federal ReserveWith the Federal Reserve raising interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade, views of the institution are not immune from today’s politically polarized climate. In 2014, roughly half of Americans (47%) had a favorable opinion of the Fed and 37% had an unfavorable view. But Republicans, especially conservative Republicans, were more likely to view the institution unfavorably.

Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents expressed favorable opinions of the Fed by a roughly two-to-one margin (57% vs. 28%). Only 39% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said the same, while nearly half (48%) expressed an unfavorable opinion. Read More

Topics: Economic and Business News, Economic Policy, Economic Recession, Federal Government, National Economy

Dec 16, 2015 7:00 am

Americans divided on government’s role in space exploration

From the moon landings to Star Wars, Americans have long had a fascination with space and affection for NASA, but today’s public is divided on what role their government should play in future space exploration.

Americans less supportive of government playing major role in space explorationAmong 13 areas asked about in Pew Research Center’s recent report on views of government, nearly half of U.S. adults (48%) say the federal government should play a minor or no role in advancing space exploration. This includes 39% who say government should have only a minor role and 9% who think it should have no role at all.

On the other hand, 47% of U.S. adults say the federal government should have a major role in advancing space exploration, making it the only area measured that does not have majority support for major government involvement. This stands in contrast to other issues such as curtailing terrorism, responding to natural disasters and ensuring food and medicine safety, for which a vast majority of Americans think government should be heavily involved. Read More

Topics: Federal Government, Science and Innovation