May 1, 2014 7:00 am

5 facts about prayer

May 1 is the National Day of Prayer in the U.S.

Today is the National Day of Prayer, on which presidents annually proclaim that “the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.” The day has spawned a rival National Day of Reason on the same day, started by opponents of the National Day of Prayer.

Here are five facts about prayer, including survey data on Americans’ prayer habits and historical instances of prayer intersecting with the government:

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Category: 5 Facts

Apr 30, 2014 3:56 pm

Botched execution in Oklahoma renews death-penalty debate

chart of death penalty support over timeTuesday night’s botched execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett is renewing debate about how, and whether, the U.S. should continue to impose the death penalty. Though a majority (55%) of Americans in a 2013 Pew Research Center survey said they favored the death penalty for convicted murderers, that was the lowest support level in four decades; support has been falling for the past two decades. (Gallup’s most recent poll on the subject, from this past October, found 60% support, also the lowest in more than 40 years.)

While that survey didn’t ask people why they supported or opposed the death penalty, a 2011 survey (which found 62% support for capital punishment), did. Roughly half (53%) of supporters said death was the appropriate punishment for murder; as one respondent put it, “You kill someone, you get the same deal.” 15% of supporters cited the cost of keeping prisoners locked up for life (or, as one respondent said, “If you took a life you should lose your life rather than the people having to pay for you to watch TV and sit around in jail”). Only 6% of death-penalty supporters cited a deterrent effect. Read More

Topics: Death Penalty

Apr 30, 2014 2:27 pm

5 facts about the modern American family

The classic nuclear family, the kind imprinted on the American imagination by TV shows like Leave It To Beaver, has been left behind. In 1960, 37% of households included a married couple raising their own children. More than a half-century later, just 16% of households look like that.

Here are 5 facts about the modern family:  Read More

Topics: Birth Rate and Fertility, Family and Relationships, Household and Family Structure, Intermarriage, Marriage and Divorce

Apr 30, 2014 11:56 am

Long-term unemployment is still high; new research suggests geography could be one reason

chart of unemployment duration
Median number of weeks unemployed people have been out of work (seasonally adjusted). Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

One of the defining features of the Great Recession and not-so-great recovery has been the surge in long-term unemployment. As of March, more than 3.7 million Americans had been out of work for more than six months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the median duration of unemployment (seasonally adjusted) was 16.3 weeks — down from the record high of 25 weeks in mid-2010, but well above pre-recession norms.

Analysts have advanced several explanations for the persistence of long-term unemployment: an unintended consequence of extending jobless benefits; a mismatch between the skills unemployed workers have and what employers want; a breakdown in the efficiency of labor markets; or simply bad timing. Whatever the reason, it’s a major concern for policymakers, who fear that many of the long-term unemployed may never find their way back into the workforce. Read More

Topics: Work and Employment

Apr 30, 2014 11:11 am

Data Feed: Millennials and midterms, America’s global role, Homeownership rate hits low

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

Americans divided on prospects for two state solution in Mideast, Pew Research Center
Americans want to pull back from world stage, topline, WSJ/NBC News
8.7% of Congress members have come from ‘dynastic’ families, Washington Post
What college towns tell us about midterm elections, The Wall Street Journal
23% of young Americans say they will definitely vote in midterms, topline, Harvard
Analysis: Younger millennials not as Democratic as older millennials, Washington Post
Poll shows no leader in wide-open GOP race, Washington Post
Florida voters back gay marriage, immigrant in-state tuition, Quinnipiac

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Category: Data Feed

Apr 30, 2014 10:51 am

Illegal immigration by boat: A dangerous, but common way of entering Europe

Illegal migration by boat highest in Europe 2013
Every year, tens of thousands of migrants from poor and war-stricken countries attempt a risky journey by boat for what they hope will be a better life in Europe, according to EU border patrol agency, Frontex, who counts the number of migrants apprehended by border patrols along Europe’s shores.

Nearly 300 migrants drowned last year just half a mile off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, and in the last week the Italian navy has rescued thousands from the rough seas off the Sicilian coast. With the number of migrants waiting to travel to Europe by sea suggested by one immigration official to be in the hundreds of thousands Italian leaders are debating the $12 million monthly cost of those rescue efforts. Read More

Topics: Immigration, Migration, Unauthorized Immigration

Apr 29, 2014 1:13 pm

Mobile apps collect information about users, with wide range of permissions

Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The Supreme Court will hear two cases this term about whether police can search the contents of a mobile device without a warrant.

The legal boundaries of technology and privacy have become more urgent to address as mobile connectivity has become central to Americans’ lives. According to the Pew Research Center 58% of adults own smartphones and 42% own tablet computers. Half of American cell phone owners have downloaded apps to their mobile devices.

Apps are pieces of software that allow users to interact with mobile services, from online banking, to news and games and driving directions. When they download apps, many users may not realize the apps collect information about them. The cases before the high court could clarify whether police searches of smartphones, including app content, without a warrant represent “unreasonable search and seizure” and violate citizens’ privacy in a new technological era. Read More

Topics: Mobile, Privacy and Safety

Apr 29, 2014 11:58 am

Data Feed: Dems at risk in midterms, support for contraceptive mandate, 4.5 million deported since 1996

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

Bipartisan support for increased sanctions against Russia, Pew Research/USA Today
Dems are at risk in midterms as Obama’s ratings fall, topline, ABC News/Washington Post
Majority supports ACA’s contraceptive mandate, topline, Kaiser Family Foundation
Both Republicans and Democrats have an age problem, FiveThirtyEight

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Category: Data Feed

Apr 29, 2014 11:40 am

Kaiser: Majority of Americans back health law mandate on contraceptive coverage

The Supreme Court recently heard arguments on two challenges to the health care law’s mandate that requires many employers to include contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans. But whatever the justices decide, the mandate has the support of a majority of the public, according to a Kaiser Health Tracking Poll released today.

Over four-in-ten (44%) Americans said they followed news coverage of the cases “very” or “fairly closely,” which was a higher percentage than some other issues that have come before the court in Pew Research’s own polling.  Read More

Topics: Health Care, Religion and Society

Apr 28, 2014 12:30 pm

Americans agree inequality has grown, but don’t agree on why

Chart listing some of the reasons Americans give for economic inequalityIssues of economic inequality (however one defines it) are a part of the public discussion in a way they haven’t been for a long time, driven both by economists such as Thomas Piketty and people’s own experiences since the 2007-09 global financial panic. Americans have few doubts that inequality has grown: In a Pew Research Center survey from January, about two-thirds of respondents (65%) said the gap between the rich and everyone else has increased over the past decade, versus just 8% who said it’s decreased.

But ask people why the gap has grown, and their answers are all over the place.

Among people who said the gap between the rich and everyone else has grown, we asked an “open-ended question” — what, in their own words, the main reason was. About a fifth (20%) said tax loopholes (or, more generally, tax laws skewed to favor the rich) were the main reason. Ten percent pinned the blame on Congress or government policies more broadly; about as many (9%) cited the lackluster job market, while 6% named corporations or business executives. Read More

Topics: Income Inequality, National Economy