Jun 17, 2014 9:00 am

Which party is more to blame for political polarization? It depends on the measure

Our report on political polarization in America has renewed debate among journalists and academics over what is called “asymmetrical polarization” – the idea that one party has moved further ideologically than the other. A number of congressional scholars have concluded that the widening partisan gap in Congress is attributable mostly to a rightward shift among Republican lawmakers. But what about the public? Have Republicans nationwide shifted further than Democrats over the past two decades?

The report addresses this issue in considerable detail. What we find is clear evidence of more ideologically consistent thinking on both sides of the spectrum, as well as greater levels of partisan antipathy, though the latter is currently more acute on the right than on the left.

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Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Polarization

Jun 17, 2014 7:00 am

A dug-in electorate bodes poorly for the Democrats in November

Opinion of Obama, Obamacare, economy influences voteSince the Affordable Care Act was passed nearly four years ago, a plurality of Americans have disapproved of it. Since the onset of the Great Recession six years ago, more than 80% of Americans have rated economic conditions as only fair or poor. And since winning a second term, Barack Obama’s approval score has mostly been in the mid-40s or lower. One or more of these attitudes will have to move in a clearly positive direction for the Democratic Party to avoid a drubbing in the congressional elections, according to a new analysis of voter opinion.

So far the indications for that are not so good. Recent months have shown signs of economic progress and indications that the Affordable Care Act has begun to achieve its goals. But there is little indication that the unemployment rate’s falling to 6.3%, the Dow Jones average soaring to a new high and the ACA signing up 8 million people, (including many young people,) had any effect on attitudes about these two key issues. Read More

Topics: 2014 Election, Political Party Affiliation, Presidential Approval, U.S. Political Parties

Jun 16, 2014 3:00 pm

In countries near Syria, widespread fear about the spread of violence, extremists

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

The successful capture last week of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, by the extremist organization Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – and the group’s continued push toward the Iraqi capital, Baghdad – seemed to confirm widespread fears in the Middle East that violence in Syria would spill over into neighboring states.

FT_mideast-syria-violence-concernMiddle East worries about spreading violence and a possible triumph by extremists in Syria have been evident in Pew Research surveys the past two years. A 2013 poll found that roughly three-quarters or more of the public in Lebanon, Tunisia, Jordan, Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian territories were concerned that the ongoing Syrian conflict would destabilize nearby countries. (The Pew Research Center did not poll in Iraq.)

This year, our newest poll reveals that people in these same neighboring countries are also concerned that extremists, such as ISIS, will prevail in Syria. Read More

Topics: Middle East and North Africa, Terrorism

Jun 16, 2014 11:53 am

So, you married an atheist…

FT_14.06.16_marryAnAtheistHow would you react if a family member were to marry a born-again Christian – or an atheist?

A new Pew Research Center survey found that despite high levels of political polarization overall, most Americans in each major political party said “it wouldn’t matter” if an immediate family member married someone who identifies with the opposite party. But fewer U.S. adults – especially Christians – are neutral toward the idea of welcoming someone who doesn’t believe in God into their family through marriage.

About three-quarters of white evangelicals (77%) and two-thirds of black Protestants (67%) in the survey said they would be unhappy if a family member were to marry an atheist, as did 55% of Catholics and 46% of white mainline Protestants.

By comparison, Americans who are religiously unaffiliated are much more comfortable with the prospect of a family member marrying a born-again Christian. Most religious “nones” (73%) said that such a union would not matter to them, while one-in-ten (9%) even said they would be happy to see such a marriage. About one-in-six (17%) said they would be unhappy.

Even among people who specifically identify themselves as atheists or agnostics, two-thirds (67%) said it wouldn’t matter if a family member married a born-again Christian, while just a quarter (26%) said they’d be unhappy.

Topics: Religion and Politics

Jun 16, 2014 7:00 am

5 facts about the World Cup – and the people who are watching

FT_14.06.12_WorldCupStadiumPhoto

Aside from the Olympics, there are few events that garner as much global coverage as the World Cup.

Of all the numbers associated with the event – 32 teams, 64 matches, 736 players, each team’s odds of winning – some of the biggest (with the exception of the World Cup’s reported $11.5 billion price tag) are the numbers of people who will be watching.

Here are five facts about World Cup viewership in the United States and around the world:

1About 3.2 billion people around the world (roughly 46% of the global population) watched at least a minute of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa on TV in their homes, according to a report produced for FIFA by the British firm KantarSport. This is slightly lower than the number of people who reportedly saw at least a minute of the 2012 London Olympics (3.6 billion), according to a report produced for the International Olympic Committee. Nearly 1 billion people (909.6 million) tuned in for at least a minute of the 2010 World Cup final, in which Spain defeated the Netherlands, a similar viewership number to the London Olympics’ opening ceremonies.

2In the United States, 94.5 million people (about 31% of the population) watched at least 20 consecutive minutes of the last World Cup, an increase of 19% over the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Compared to the U.S., World Cup host Brazil is far more interested in soccer, with 80% of the population watching at least 20 minutes of the matches in 2010.

3A similar share of Americans (28%) said they plan to watch World Cup games this summer, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News survey, which also found that more Americans called soccer “a big bore” (28%) than said it is “exciting” (19%).

4In a Pew Research survey conducted in January, 22% of Americans said they were “especially looking forward to” the World Cup, nearly the same share as when we asked about the 2010 World Cup in January of that year (23%). No other event mentioned in the 2014 survey found fewer people anticipating the event; more than twice as many people (51%) said they were looking forward to this fall’s midterm elections.

5The world will be watching Brazil – both for this summer’s World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics – but Brazilians are skeptical about whether the world will see Brazil in a positive light. About a third (35%) of Brazilians said the World Cup will help their country’s international image, while roughly four-in-ten (39%) said it will hurt Brazil’s image, according to a survey we conducted in April.

Jun 13, 2014 4:20 pm

1-in-4 Native Americans and Alaska Natives are living in poverty

Standing Rock Sioux demographicsOn his visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota today, President Obama is using his first stop at a Native American reservation while in office to highlight the challenges Native Americans face. In an op-ed published in Indian Country Today, Obama called the poverty and high school dropout rates among Native Americans “a moral call to action.”

The poverty rate at Standing Rock Reservation is 43.2%, nearly triple the national average, according to Census Bureau data. The reservation, which straddles North Dakota and South Dakota, has a population of 8,956, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Native American & Alaska Native demorgaphicsNative Americans have a higher poverty and unemployment rate when compared with the national average, but the rates are comparable to those of blacks and Hispanics. About one-in-four American Indians and Alaska Natives were living in poverty in 2012. Among those who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native as their only race, the poverty rate was 29.1% in 2012.

Some 5.2 million people (1.7% of the total U.S. population) identify as Native American or Alaska Native, with 44% identifying as at least one other race, according to 2010 Census Bureau data, the most recent data available. And census officials have said that the number of people who self-identify as such has been growing, for reasons they don’t fully understand.

There were 170,110 people nationwide who identified as Sioux in the 2010 census. The largest tribal group, Cherokee, has 819,105 people. Of those who identify as Native American or Alaska Native as their only race, one-in-three (33%) live on reservations or tribal lands. Among all American Indians and Alaska Natives, about one-in-five (22%) live on reservations or tribal lands.

Topics: Demographics, Poverty, Race and Ethnicity, U.S. Census

Jun 13, 2014 11:54 am

Why we didn’t include the y-axis on our polarization chart

One of the biggest findings in our largest-ever politics survey of Americans was that the public is more polarized than at any time in recent history. To illustrate, we included an interactive data visualization of the blue and red “mountains” of Americans, representing Democrats and Republicans and how their views have changed over time. This unique interactive does not include a labeled y (vertical) axis, as many are used to seeing in charts. This was an intentional decision to avoid miscommunication about the meaning of the area represented by the “mountains.”

In this case, the “mountains” represent the distribution of the American public, from consistently conservative to consistently liberal, according to how they answered a series of 10 questions about their political views. To create the distribution, we used their responses to assign them an ideological consistency score – this is the x (horizontal) axis. The interactive is actually a “smoothed” histogram of these scores, where points along the curve correspond to averages of adjacent scores. (Find a more detailed explanation here.)

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Topics: Political Polarization, Research Methodology

Jun 13, 2014 9:00 am

Chart of the Week: The World Cup of (almost) everything

worldcup_everything

Soccer’s World Cup tournament, now getting underway, is front-page news around the world. But why should the sports world have all the fun? The infographics whizzes at The Wall Street Journal adapted the Cup’s group-and-bracket format to show which of the 32 countries in the tournament stand out on 70 dimensions, only a handful of them related to soccer.

On the interactive version of the chart, clicking on any of the topics in the left-hand rail automatically reorders the brackets and picks the “winner.” We learn, for example, that Russia leads the World Cup qualifiers in most cellphone subscriptions per capita (1.84), Argentina has the heaviest meat-eaters (570 calories per capita per day, beating out the French), and the Netherlands has the highest internet usage rate (93% of its population is online). It’s a simple and elegant, yet compulsively fascinating way of presenting a lot of data about the world.

(And not to ignore entirely the actual sport, Brazil has the best all-time record in World Cup competition, with 216 points scored. But Belgium has the tallest World Cup roster, averaging just over 6 feet.)

Category: Chart of the Week

Topics: International Organizations

Jun 13, 2014 7:00 am

How the most ideologically polarized Americans live different lives

polarization_whereliveFor America’s most ardent liberals and conservatives, polarization begins at home.

In what may seem like stereotypes come to life, a new Pew Research Center study on political polarization finds that conservatives would rather live in large houses in small towns and rural areas — ideally among people of the same religious faith — while liberals opt for smaller houses and walkable communities in cities, preferably with a mix of different races and ethnicities. And sizable minorities of both groups say they’d be dismayed if someone from the “other side” were to marry into their family. Read More

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Polarization

Jun 12, 2014 3:55 pm

More Americans say U.S. failed to achieve its goals in Iraq

As Sunni militants make a major military push against the central government in Iraq, the Obama administration is said to have rebuffed requests from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to carry out airstrikes at extremist bases. That reported reluctance follows years of U.S. military intervention in Iraq that many Americans say was misguided and failed to achieve its goals.

Iraq War in U.S. public opinionAbout half (52%) of Americans said the U.S. had mostly failed to achieve its goals in Iraq compared with 37% who said it had succeeded, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January. That amounted to a 19-point decline in perceived success since 2011. And, by about the same margin (50% to 38%), the public said the U.S. had made the wrong decision in using military force in Iraq.  Read More

Topics: Middle East and North Africa, Military and Veterans, Wars and International Conflicts