Sep 25, 2014 12:34 pm

National Congregations Study finds more church acceptance of gays and lesbians

A new survey of American religious congregations conducted by researchers from Duke University and the University of Chicago finds that, in recent years, more churches have become welcoming to openly gay and lesbian couples. These findings parallel broader trends showing greater acceptance among the general public of both homosexuality and same-sex marriage during roughly the same period.

Growing acceptance of gays and lesbians among religious congregationsThe report, “Changing American Congregations,” is part of the ongoing National Congregations Study (NCS). The Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project contributed funding to the study, which involved interviews with a clergyperson or other key member of each of the 1331 congregations surveyed.

The survey found that between 2006 and 2012, the share of congregations allowing an openly gay or lesbian couple to become full-fledged members grew from 37% to 48%. In addition, the number of congregations that allowed openly gay and lesbian members to assume any lay leadership position also increased – from 18% in 2006 to 26% in 2012.

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Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Religion and Society

Sep 25, 2014 11:20 am

The GOP’s Millennial problem runs deep

Wide Ideological Divide by Generation, Particularly Stark Within the GOPThe Republican Party’s struggles in appealing to young people have been well documented. And even those Millennials who do identify as Republicans or lean toward the GOP are decidedly less conservative than older Republicans.

Overall, Millennials (currently ages 18-33) are the most liberal age group. In our report on Political Polarization in the American Public, we used a scale based on 10 political values questions about the role of government, the environment, homosexuality and other issues to measure ideological consistency. This survey of more than 10,000 Americans finds that, on this scale, Millennials are considerably more liberal than other generations: About four-in-ten Millennials are mostly (28%) or consistently (13%) liberal in their views, compared with 15% who are mostly (12%) or consistently (3%) conservative (44% are ideologically mixed). Older generations are progressively more conservative.

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Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Issue Priorities, Political Party Affiliation, Political Polarization, U.S. Political Parties

Sep 25, 2014 7:00 am

Texas moms are most likely to give birth in the same state they were born

How common is it for new parents to put down roots in the same areas that they themselves were born? The answer, according to a new Pew Research analysis, depends on which part of the country they hail from.

New moms who were born in the South are the most likely to nest in the same state their parents did. Texas tops the list — in 2010, 80% of moms who were born in Texas also gave birth in The Lone Star State. In fact, 7 of the 11 states with the highest share of “stayers” are in the South.

South, Rust Belt Moms Most Likely to 'Nest' in Home State

Moms born in four Midwestern states along the Rust Belt — Wisconsin (73%), Ohio (73%), Indiana (72%) and Michigan (72%) – are also in the top 11 states.

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Topics: Birth Rate and Fertility, Demographics, Population Geography

Sep 24, 2014 9:51 am

How social media is reshaping news

The ever-growing digital native news world now boasts about 5,000 digital news sector jobs, according to our recent calculations, 3,000 of which are at 30 big digital-only news outlets. Many of these digital organizations emphasize the importance of social media in storytelling and engaging their audiences. As journalists gather for the annual Online News Association conference, here are answers to five questions about social media and the news.

1 How do social media sites stack up on news? When you take into account both the total reach of a site (the share of Americans who use it) and the proportion of users who get news on the site, Facebook is the obvious news powerhouse among the social media sites. Roughly two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults use the site, and half of those users get news there — amounting to 30% of the general population.

YouTube is the next biggest social news pathway — about half of Americans use the site, and a fifth of them get news there, which translates to 10% of the adult population and puts the site on par with Twitter. Twitter reaches 16% of Americans and half of those users say they get news there, or 8% of Americans. And although only 3% of the U.S. population use reddit, for those that do, getting news there is a major draw–62% have gotten news from the site.

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Sep 23, 2014 2:15 pm

Is religion’s declining influence good or bad? Those without religious affiliation are divided

We’ve known for some time that the number of Americans who say they have no religion has been growing. But while this group does not identify with a specific religious tradition or denomination, the “nones” are not uniformly against religion having a role in society, a new Pew Research Center survey finds.

Most View Religion's Waning Influence as Negative DevelopmentWe asked all respondents whether religion is gaining or losing influence in American life, and 72% of U.S. adults (including 70% of the religiously unaffiliated) said religion is losing influence. We then asked whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, and, not surprisingly, “nones” were much more likely than other major religious groups to say that the declining influence of religion in American life is a good thing.

The results, however, were not completely one-sided. In fact, religiously unaffiliated people who perceive religion’s influence as declining were split on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. About a third of “nones” overall (34%) said it is good that religion is losing influence, while a similar share (30%) said this is bad. Read More

Topics: Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Religiously Unaffiliated

Sep 23, 2014 1:49 pm

Congress still on track to be among least productive in recent history

congressProductivityCongress made big news last week when it managed to pass a bill that both keeps the government running through Dec. 11 and authorizes the Obama administration to arm and train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State. The vote, unlike so many in Congress, blended party lines: 176 Republicans and 143 Democrats voted for it in the House; 44 Democrats, 33 Republicans and one independent in the Senate. That was arguably the biggest accomplishment of the short September sitting, as the 21 other measures (most not yet signed into law) that made it through Congress mainly ran toward the relatively noncontroversial — reauthorizing existing programs, extending advisory committees, and other tinkering around the edges of statute law.

Even so, the current Congress remains on pace to be one of the least legislatively productive in recent history. As of Monday, 165 laws had been enacted since January 2013, 124 of which were substantive by our deliberately generous criteria (no post-office renamings, commemorative-coin authorizations or other purely ceremonial laws). Both those figures are the lowest of any Congress in the past two decades over an equivalent timespan. Read More

Topics: Congress

Sep 23, 2014 7:00 am

Polls show most Americans believe in climate change, but give it low priority

Stark partisan divide over global warming, threat of climate changeThe United Nations is bringing together world leaders on Tuesday to focus on the challenge of climate change. In the U.S., a solid majority believe there is evidence that global warming is happening, but they do not rank global climate change as one of the top threats facing the country.

Last month, nearly half of Americans (48%) rated global climate change as a major threat — well behind concerns such as the militant group ISIS (67%), Iran’s nuclear program (59%) and North Korea’s nuclear program (57%). In an international survey of 39 publics last year, Americans were among the least concerned about climate change threatening their country.

Global warming also ranked near the bottom of Americans’ 2014 priorities for President Obama and Congress (28% said it was a top priority). Similarly, when asked last November about long-range foreign policy goals, 37% named global climate change as a top long-range goal; by comparison, 83% cited guarding against terrorist attacks and 81% named protecting American jobs as top goals. Read More

Topics: Energy and Environment, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Issue Priorities

Sep 22, 2014 12:05 pm

5 takeaways about religion and politics before the midterms

Although there has always been a separation of church and state in the U.S., it has never prevented religion and religious groups from playing a big role in the country’s political life. Now, as the nation heads into midterm elections, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that many Americans support a role for religion in the political arena and lament what they see as religion’s declining influence in society.

The survey asked Americans a series of questions about the intersection of faith and public life; here are a few of the key findings:

Rising number of Americans say religion is losing influence in society1 A growing percentage of U.S. adults (now 72%) think that religion is losing influence in American life. Moreover, most people who feel this way think this is a bad thing. Overall, a majority (56%) of the total U.S. population perceives religion as losing influence in American life and says that’s a bad thing.

2 Perhaps as a consequence, our survey found a growing share of Americans express support for religion in politics in a few different ways. About half of U.S. adults (49%) say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political questions – up from 43% four years ago. And while they are still a minority, the percentage of Americans who say that churches should endorse candidates in elections is up 8 percentage points since 2010 (from 24% to 32%).

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Topics: Religion and U.S. Politics

Sep 22, 2014 11:03 am

Census confirms more data problems in sorting out the number of U.S. gay marriages

View our interactive map to see how state policies on same-sex marriage have changed from 1995 through the present.
Click to view our interactive map to see how state policies on same-sex marriage have changed from 1995 through the present.

The Census Bureau last week released a new estimate of the number of U.S. same-sex married couples: 252,000. The data show a sharp increase, but come with a caveat because agency officials acknowledge the estimates are flawed and say they are still working to improve their accuracy.

The 2013 total is 38% higher than the bureau’s 2012 estimate of 182,000 same-sex married couples; both come from the American Community Survey. Accounting for a significant part of the increase, according to a bureau official, was a change in how the agency reported data from survey forms with incomplete responses. Read More

Topics: Gay Marriage and Homosexuality

Sep 22, 2014 9:00 am

In some European countries, church membership means paying more taxes

European Countries With Church TaxesAn increasing number of Germans – Protestant and Catholic alike – are leaving their churches, according to statistics compiled by The Wall Street Journal. Among the reasons cited for the decrease in membership is an unwillingness to pay a de facto increase in Germany’s church tax, which is collected by the government from registered members of churches to fund those religious organizations.

The fact that church taxes even exist might surprise Americans, as the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibits the government from collecting taxes for religious groups. But last year, Germany reportedly collected $13.2 billion in revenue for churches. Read More

Topics: Religion and Government, Religion and Society, Western Europe