Feb 12, 2016 9:25 am

On Darwin Day, 5 facts about the evolution debate

Photograph of Charles Darwin by Maull and Polyblank for the Literary and Scientific Portrait Club (1855) via Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Charles_Darwin#mediaviewer/File:Charles_Darwin_by_Maull_and_Polyblank,_1855-1.jpg
Photograph of Charles Darwin by Maull and Polyblank for the Literary and Scientific Portrait Club (1855) via Wikimedia Commons.

Today is the 207th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, a day now celebrated by some as Darwin Day. Darwin, of course, is best known for his theory of evolution through natural selection. When Darwin’s work was first made public in 1859, it shocked Britain’s religious establishment. And while today it is accepted by virtually all scientists, evolutionary theory still is rejected by many Americans, often because it conflicts with their religious beliefs about divine creation.

While not an official holiday, Darwin Day has been adopted by scientific and humanist groups to promote everything from scientific literacy to secularism. This year, more than 100 events have been planned worldwide, many of them anchored by scientific talks or symposia. Others, such as a children’s scavenger hunt at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., are a little less serious.

Here are five facts about the public’s views on evolution as well as other aspects of the debate in the U.S. and elsewhere: Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Evolution, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Science and Innovation

Feb 11, 2016 1:00 pm

5 facts about Mexico and immigration to the U.S.

U.S. immigration from Latin America has shifted over the past two decades. From 1965 to 2015, more than 16 million Mexicans migrated to the U.S. in one of the largest mass migrations in modern history. But over the past decade, Mexican migration to the U.S. has slowed dramatically. Today, Mexico increasingly serves as a land bridge for Central American immigrants traveling to the U.S.

Here are five facts about Mexico and trends in immigration to the U.S.

1Mexico increases deportations of Central AmericansMexico is stopping more unauthorized Central American immigrants at its southern border. The Mexican government said in 2014 that it would increase enforcement at its southern border in response to an increased flow of Central Americans traveling through Mexico to reach the U.S. In 2015, the government there carried out about 150,000 deportations of unauthorized immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, a 44% jump over the previous year. These three Central American countries alone accounted for nearly all (97%) of Mexico’s deportations in 2015. Read More

Topics: Immigration, Immigration Trends, Latin America, Mexico, Religious Leaders, Unauthorized Immigration

Feb 11, 2016 9:36 am

Concern for Christians in the Middle East helps drive historic meeting between Catholic, Orthodox leaders

Composite image of Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill
Photo credits: Franco Origlia/Getty Images (Francis); Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty Images (Kirill)

A historic event within global Christianity is set to take place Friday as Pope Francis meets Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Cuba – the first-ever meeting between the leaders of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches since the Orthodox tradition broke away from Catholicism nearly 1,000 years ago. While Pope Francis has met with other Orthodox leaders, including Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, he has never met with the Russian Orthodox patriarch, who leads the largest church within Orthodoxy.

Tensions between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches have long prevented a meeting between patriarch and pope, but a mutual concern for the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa appears to be one reason Francis and Kirill are finally coming together with plans to sign a joint declaration.

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Topics: Christians and Christianity, Middle East and North Africa, Religion and Society, Religious Leaders

Feb 10, 2016 1:30 pm

Most Americans say U.S. economic system is unfair, but high-income Republicans disagree

It has become one of the recurring questions of the 2016 presidential campaigns in both parties: Is the U.S. economic system fair to most Americans, or is it “rigged” to favor the rich and powerful?

Most Americans say economic system unfairly favors powerful interests A substantial majority of Americans – 65% – say the economic system in this country “unfairly favors powerful interests.” Fewer than half as many (31%) say the system “is generally fair to most Americans.”

There are notable differences on this issue between – and within – both political parties. Overall, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to view the economic system as unfair (73% vs. 54%).

The ideological gap is even starker. Conservative Republicans are split over the fairness of the economic system: 50% say the system favors the powerful, while just about as many (47%) say it’s fair. By contrast, fully 82% of liberal Democrats say the economic system in this country favors powerful interests. A slim 15% think it’s fair to most. Read More

Topics: Economic Policy, Income Inequality, Political Attitudes and Values

Feb 10, 2016 12:21 pm

A snapshot of Catholics in Mexico, Pope Francis’ next stop

Catholic affiliation in Latin American, 2014When Pope Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, arrives in Mexico this week, he will be visiting a country that is home to not only the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, but one of the biggest Catholic populations, too. Indeed, Mexico has the globe’s second-largest number of Catholics, and a larger majority of Mexicans have remained tied to their Catholic faith compared with people in many other Latin American countries.

Across Latin America, the portion of people who identify as Catholic has declined considerably in recent decades, from at least 90% in the 1960s to 69% in 2014. This decline is largely due to widespread conversion to Protestant (and especially evangelical) denominations, as well as some people leaving organized religion altogether. But the trend away from Catholicism has been less pronounced in Mexico, where 81% of adults identify as Catholic today, compared with 90% who say they were raised Catholic, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report.

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Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Latin America, Mexico, Religious Affiliation, Religious Leaders

Feb 9, 2016 3:31 pm

Among Millennials engaged in primaries, Dems more likely to learn about the election from social media

In a report released last week, Pew Research Center examined how Americans are learning about the 2016 presidential election. A new analysis of this data reveals that while Millennials overall are more likely than older generations to get political news through social media, there are striking party-line differences, particularly among Millennials who say they are very likely to take part in the primaries and caucuses.

Among Millennials engaged in primaries, Dems more likely to learn about the election from social mediaAmong this group, Democrats and Democratic-leaning Millennials are far more likely than Republican and Republican-leaning Millennials to learn about the election via social media, the new analysis finds. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Millennial Democrats who say they are very likely to participate in their state’s primary or caucus learned about the 2016 presidential election through a social networking site. This is starkly higher than the 50% of Millennial Republicans who say they are very likely to participate. These party differences were not found in other generations. Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Digital Media, Election News, News Audience Trends and Attitudes, News Interest, News Media Trends, News Sources, Social Media

Feb 9, 2016 1:40 pm

Democratic voters increasingly embrace the ‘liberal’ label – especially whites, Millennials and postgrads

As Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders battle over who better represents progressive or liberal values, it’s clear that Democratic voters overall have become increasingly comfortable with the “liberal” label.

More Democratic voters call themselves ‘liberal’From 2000 to 2015, the share of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters describing their political views as liberal increased by 15 percentage points, from 27% to 42%.

In 2015, more Democratic voters identified as liberals (42%) than as moderates (38%) or conservatives (17%), based on an average of Pew Research Center political surveys conducted last year. In 2008, when Barack Obama defeated Clinton for the party’s nomination, 41% of Democratic voters called themselves moderates, while just 33% said they were liberals and 23% said they were conservatives. And in 2000, moderate Democratic voters outnumbered liberals by 45% to 27%.

White Democrats in particular increasingly characterize their political views as liberal, while blacks and Hispanics are far less likely to embrace that description. In 2015, half of white Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters called themselves liberals, up 22 percentage points since 2000 (28%). Read More

Topics: Political Party Affiliation, U.S. Political Parties

Feb 9, 2016 10:57 am

Global opinion varies widely on use of torture against suspected terrorists

U.S. more likely to say torture can be justifiedAround the world, public opinion is divided about whether government-sponsored torture can ever be justified as part of efforts to prevent terrorist attacks, according to a spring 2015 Pew Research Center survey of 38 nations. A median of 45% across the countries polled said they did not believe use of torture by their governments against suspected terrorists to try to gain information about possible attacks in their country could be justified. A median of 40% thought the use of torture could be justified in such cases.

Looking at public opinion across major regions, the view that torture may be justified is most common in sub-Saharan Africa, where a median of 55% hold this view; it is least common in Latin America (a median of 25%).

The U.S. public is among the most likely to consider torture justifiable: 58% say this, while only 37% disagree. There are only five nations in the survey where larger shares of the public believe torture against suspected terrorists can be justified: Uganda (78%), Lebanon (72%), Israel (62%), Kenya (62%) and Nigeria (61%). Read More

Topics: International Governments and Institutions, Terrorism, Wars and International Conflicts

Feb 4, 2016 11:50 am

What Americans say it takes to be middle class

Secure job, ability to save seen as top requirements to be middle classWhat does it take to be considered part of the middle class these days? The vast majority of American adults agree that a secure job and the ability to save money for the future are essential. The public is more evenly split when it comes to owning a home and having the time and money to travel for vacation. But one thing is now less likely to be seen as a requirement: a college education.

While the economic gap between college graduates and those with a high school education or less has never been greater, the share of adults saying a college education is necessary to be middle class has actually fallen since 2012, from 37% to 30%, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Dec. 8-13, 2015. Read More

Topics: College, Economics and Personal Finances, Education, Educational Attainment, Middle Class, Socioeconomic Class

Feb 4, 2016 10:30 am

Contested presidential conventions, and why parties try to avoid them

Delegates crowd down the center aisle at the 1948 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia during a demonstration for Gov. Thomas E. Dewey. Dewey was the last Republican presidential candidate to be nominated in a multi-ballot contest; he won on the third ballot. Photo credit: AP photo
Delegates crowd down the center aisle at the 1948 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia during a demonstration for Gov. Thomas E. Dewey. Dewey was the last Republican presidential candidate to be nominated in a multi-ballot contest; he won on the third ballot. Photo credit: AP photo

Now that actual voting has started in the 2016 presidential campaign, there’s been more than the usual amount of chatter and speculation about whether this might be the year for a contested convention – particularly on the Republican side, given the large field of GOP candidates and the unpredictable nature of the contest so far.

Presidential candidates nominated after multiple ballots less likely to winA contested convention, for those who’ve never experienced one (which is to say, everyone under the age of 35 or 40), occurs when no candidate has amassed the majority of delegate votes needed to win his or her party’s nomination in advance of the convention. A candidate still might gather the delegates needed by the time balloting begins, in which case the nomination is settled on the first ballot. But should the first ballot not produce a nominee, most delegates become free to vote for whomever they wish, leading potentially to multiple ballots, horse-trading, smoke-filled rooms, favorite sons, dark horses and other colorful elements that have enlivened American political journalism, literature and theater.

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Topics: Elections and Campaigns, U.S. Political Figures, U.S. Political Parties