Nov 14, 2016 11:10 am

5 facts about the death penalty

Even though nationwide support for the death penalty has fallen sharply in recent years, voters in three states voted in support of capital punishment in 2016. In Nebraska, a referendum to reverse an earlier state legislative ban on the death penalty won approval handily. In Oklahoma, where the death penalty was already legal, voters approved a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing the availability of capital punishment “unless prohibited by the United States Constitution.” And in California, which has more inmates on death row than any other state, voters rejected an initiative that would have abolished the death penalty and appear to have approved another that will limit the appeals process for inmates sentenced to death.

Approval of these measures comes as the U.S. is on track to record its fewest executions in a quarter century. At the same time, 31 states (once again including Nebraska) still have the death penalty on the books, as does the federal government. Here are five facts about the issue:

1Support has fallen dramatically in the past two decades, but more Americans still favor the death penalty than oppose it. A Pew Research Center poll in August and September found that 49% favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 42% oppose it. But support is at its lowest level in more than 40 years. Much of the decline in support over the past two decades has come from Democrats. Currently, just 34% of Democrats favor the death penalty, compared with 72% of Republicans.

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Criminal Justice, Death Penalty, Religion and U.S. Politics

Nov 14, 2016 7:00 am

If the U.S. had 100 people: Charting Americans’ religious affiliations

As of 2014, there were roughly 245 million adults in the United States, including 173 million Christians and 56 million people without a religious affiliation. These are big numbers that, along with many others in the religious demographic pie, can at times make it difficult to fully understand the American religious landscape.

But what if we looked at this big picture a little differently? What if we imagined the U.S. as a small town, population 100, instead of a continent-spanning nation with hundreds of millions of people? Doing so presents an interesting thought experiment because it allows us to see basic data about the U.S. and its people in a fresh, simple and illuminating way.

The following five charts use data from the 2014 Religious Landscape Study to create a religious demographic profile of the U.S. if the country were made up of exactly 100 adults.

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Topics: Christians and Christianity, Jews and Judaism, Muslims and Islam, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Religiously Unaffiliated

Nov 11, 2016 9:07 am

Whites more likely than nonwhites to have spoken to a local journalist

Being interviewed by a local journalist provides an opportunity to have a voice in the civic life and local news ecosystem of one’s community. But it remains a relatively rare experience, as only about a quarter of U.S. adults (26%) say they have ever done so. And among those who have, not everyone’s voice is equally likely to be heard.

Whites, as well as college graduates and those with higher incomes, are more likely than nonwhites to have spoken with or been interviewed by a local journalist, according to a survey by Pew Research Center.

About three-in-ten whites (29%) say they have ever spoken with or been interviewed by a local journalist or reporter, compared with 19% of nonwhites. (Nonwhite includes all racial and ethnic groups except non-Hispanic white.) This difference is particularly striking given that nonwhites generally are more engaged consumers of local news than whites. For instance, while 43% of nonwhites follow local news very closely, only a third of whites say the same – a similar pattern to what we found in our 2015 study of local news habits in three cities. Read More

Topics: Community Media, Gender, Local News, News Audience Trends and Attitudes, News Media Trends, Race and Ethnicity

Nov 11, 2016 7:00 am

Profile of U.S. veterans is changing dramatically as their ranks decline

The daughter of World War II veteran Henry Morth shakes the hand of a sailor as she cheers veterans in New York City's Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11, 2015. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The daughter of World War II veteran Henry Morth shakes the hand of a sailor as she cheers veterans in New York City’s Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11, 2015. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The U.S. is in the midst of a significant long-term shift in both the size and profile of its veteran population.

The share of the population with military experience – counting those who are on active duty or were in the past – has fallen by more than half since 1980. Then, 18% of adults were serving or had served in the military. By 2014, the share had declined to 8%, according to Census Bureau data, with an additional 1% serving in the reserves. Among U.S. men, the decline was even more dramatic, dropping from 45% in 1960 to 37% in 1980 and 16% in 2014.  Read More

Topics: Generations and Age, Military and Veterans

Nov 10, 2016 12:00 pm

In nine countries, 20% or more born there have migrated or sought refuge abroad

View our newly updated interactive tables to see the numbers and percentages of migrants worldwide by country.
View our newly updated interactive tables to see the numbers and percentages of migrants worldwide by country.

Some 244 million people worldwide – many seeking improved economic opportunities or fleeing physical danger – have emigrated from their countries of birth and currently live in other countries, according to 2015 data from the United Nations. That’s a relatively small share of the global population (about 3%), but the impact of out-migration has been uneven worldwide. In nine countries, 20% or more of the people born there now live in a different country.

For Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Jamaica and Armenia, a quarter or more of their respective birth populations lived abroad in 2015. In the case of Kazakhstan, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, the Republic of Macedonia and Portugal, about 20% of the native-born population currently lives in other countries. (For more migrant estimates and percentages, see our updated interactive tables. Puerto Rico, the Palestinian territories and countries with populations less than 1 million are not included as emigrant nations. See explanatory notes below the interactive for more details.)

For a sense of scale, if one in every five Americans were to emigrate abroad, this would be roughly equivalent to departure of 64 million people, or the current total combined populations of California and Texas.

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Topics: Country of Origin, Migration, Wars and International Conflicts

Nov 9, 2016 5:13 pm

Why 2016 election polls missed their mark

Supporters of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton watch televised coverage of the U.S. presidential election at Comet Tavern in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle on Nov. 8, 2016. (Photo by Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton watch televised coverage of the U.S. presidential election at Comet Tavern in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle on Nov. 8. (Photo by Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images)

The results of Tuesday’s presidential election came as a surprise to nearly everyone who had been following the national and state election polling, which consistently projected Hillary Clinton as defeating Donald Trump. Relying largely on opinion polls, election forecasters put Clinton’s chance of winning at anywhere from 70% to as high as 99%, and pegged her as the heavy favorite to win a number of states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that in the end were taken by Trump.

How could the polls have been so wrong about the state of the election?

There is a great deal of speculation but no clear answers as to the cause of the disconnect, but there is one point of agreement: Across the board, polls underestimated Trump’s level of support. With few exceptions, the final round of public polling showed Clinton with a lead of 1 to 7 percentage points in the national popular vote. State-level polling was more variable, but there were few instances where polls overstated Trump’s support.

The fact that so many forecasts were off-target was particularly notable given the increasingly wide variety of methodologies being tested and reported via the mainstream media and other channels. The traditional telephone polls of recent decades are now joined by increasing numbers of high profile, online probability and nonprobability sample surveys, as well as prediction markets, all of which showed similar errors.

Pollsters don’t have a clear diagnosis yet for the misfires, and it will likely be some time before we know for sure what happened. There are, however, several possible explanations for the misstep that many in the polling community will be talking about in upcoming weeks.

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Topics: 2016 Election, Polling, Research Methods

Nov 9, 2016 2:22 pm

Behind Trump’s victory: Divisions by race, gender, education

Donald Trump scored an impressive Electoral College victory Nov. 8 after a campaign that revealed deep divisions – by race, gender and education – that were as wide and in some cases wider than in previous elections, according to an analysis of national exit poll data.

Trump won white voters by a margin almost identical to that of Mitt Romney, who lost the popular vote to Barack Obama in 2012. (Trump appears likely to lose the popular vote, which would make him only the fifth elected president to do so and still win office.) White non-Hispanic voters preferred Trump over Clinton by 21 percentage points (58% to 37%), according to the exit poll conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool. Romney won whites by 20 percentage points in 2012 (59% to 39%). Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Education, Gender, Generations and Age, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Polarization, Race and Ethnicity, U.S. Political Parties, Voter Demographics, Voter Participation

Nov 9, 2016 1:00 pm

How the faithful voted: A preliminary 2016 analysis

The 2016 presidential exit polling reveals little change in the political alignments of U.S. religious groups. Those who supported Republican candidates in recent elections, such as white born-again or evangelical Christians and white Catholics, strongly supported Donald Trump as well. Groups that traditionally backed Democratic candidates, including religious “nones,” Hispanic Catholics and Jews, were firmly in Hillary Clinton’s corner.

While earlier in the campaign some pundits and others questioned whether the thrice-married Trump would earn the bulk of white evangelical support, fully eight-in-ten self-identified white, born-again/evangelical Christians say they voted for Trump, while just 16% voted for Clinton. Trump’s 65-percentage-point margin of victory among voters in this group – which includes self-described Protestants, as well as Catholics, Mormons and others – matched or exceeded the victory margins of George W. Bush in 2004, John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

(For more on the 2016 exit polls, see “Behind Trump’s victory: Divisions by race, gender, education” and “Hillary Clinton wins Latino vote, but falls below 2012 support for Obama.” For an explanation of how exit polls are conducted, see “Just how does the general election exit poll work, anyway?” )

White Catholics also supported Trump over Clinton by a wide, 23-point margin (60% to 37%), rivaling Romney’s 19-point victory among those in this group. Trump’s strong support among white Catholics propelled him to a 7-point edge among Catholics overall (52% to 45%) despite the fact that Hispanic Catholics backed Clinton over Trump by a 41-point margin (67% to 26%).  Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Catholics and Catholicism, Evangelical Protestants and Evangelicalism, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Hispanic/Latino Vote, Religion and U.S. Politics, Religious Affiliation, Religiously Unaffiliated, Voter Demographics, Voting Issues

Nov 8, 2016 10:00 am

On Election Day, most voters use electronic or optical-scan ballots

While more than 46 million Americans already have cast their votes this year, 80 million or so more will be voting on Election Day itself. If you’re one of them, there’s a good chance you’ll use one of two basic forms of voting technology to record your choices: optical-scan ballots, in which voters fill in bubbles, complete arrows or make other machine-readable marks on paper ballots; or direct-recording electronic (DRE) devices, such as touch screens, that record votes in computer memory.

Nearly half of registered voters (47%) live in jurisdictions that use only optical-scan as their standard voting system, and about 28% live in DRE-only jurisdictions, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Verified Voting Foundation, a nongovernmental organization concerned with the impact of new voting technologies on election integrity. Another 19% of registered voters live in jurisdictions where both optical-scan and DRE systems are in use.

While those are the two dominant forms of in-person voting, they aren’t the only ones in use. Around 5% of registered voters live in places that conduct elections entirely by mail – the states of Colorado, Oregon and Washington, more than half of the counties in North Dakota, 10 counties in Utah and two in California. And in more than 1,800 small counties, cities and towns – mostly in New England, the Midwest and the intermountain West – more than a million voters still use paper ballots that are counted by hand.  Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Elections and Campaigns, Technology Adoption

Nov 7, 2016 1:32 pm

America’s political divisions in 5 charts

A presidential campaign season that began early last year reaches its finale on Tuesday, as tens of millions of Americans go to their polling places to vote. As Election Day unfolds, here are five charts that highlight how politically polarized the nation has become — and how most Americans expect it to remain that way, regardless of who wins.

1Even before the current campaign began, the American public had grown more ideologically polarized along partisan lines, as Pew Research Center documented in a major study. As of 2015, 53% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents had political values that were mostly or consistently conservative, up from 31% in 2004. While Republicans have shifted to the right, Democrats have shifted to the left: In 2015, 60% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents had values that were mostly or consistently liberal, compared with 49% in 2004 and just 30% in 1994. In addition to ideological polarization, partisan animosity also increased substantially during this period.

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: 2016 Election, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation, Political Polarization, U.S. Political Parties