Feb 26, 2015 9:19 am

As 2016 election looms, MSNBC shakes up its programming strategy

MSNBC has long relied on a roster of opinion-heavy shows with a liberal bent to carve out its place in the cable news world. But having struggled to keep pace with its competitors, the network has made moves suggesting that it is turning more to straight news in an effort to rebound.

Last week, MSNBC canceled two of its daytime opinion shows: “Ronan Farrow Daily” and “The Reid Report.” The move follows network president Phil Griffin’s end-of-2014 memo, which said that in 2015 “investing in original reporting” would be the channel’s focus.

On MSNBC, Opinion Dominates ReportingThis turn to reporting – and away from opinion – would be a significant change for the network. A 2012 Pew Research Center analysis found that MSNBC’s programming was 85% commentary/opinion and 15% factual reporting. By contrast, both CNN and Fox News Channel had a relatively even balance: 46% opinion vs. 54% reporting for CNN, and 55% opinion vs. 45% reporting for Fox News. Read More

Topics: Media Economics, Television

Feb 26, 2015 7:00 am

5 facts about consistent conservatives

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference begins this week, a three-day event hosted by the American Conservative Union where activists, officeholders, campaign consultants and others will hear from a dozen or so potential Republican presidential candidates – among them Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Ted Cruz.

Last year’s series of Pew Research Center reports on political polarization used a 10-item scale of ideological consistency to place Americans into five categories: consistently conservative or liberal, mostly conservative or liberal, and mixed. By that metric, 9% of the public overall is consistently conservative, including 20% of Republicans and Republican leaners; most of the remaining Republicans and leaners were “mostly conservative” (33%) or had a mixture of liberal and conservative views (37%).

Here are five facts drawn from our package of reports about consistent conservatives: Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Polarization

Feb 25, 2015 1:00 pm

Nearly all states allow religious exemptions for vaccinations

46 States Allow Religious Exemptions for Childhood Vaccines

Forty-seven states allow children to be exempt from vaccinations because of religious concerns, including 18 states that also allow exemptions for “personal reasons,” according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. One state, Minnesota, allows parents to not vaccinate their children based on a broader “personal” exemption that does not explicitly mention religion.

The recent measles outbreak linked to California’s Disneyland  has reignited the debate over whether children should be required to receive vaccinations, regardless of parental objections. More than eight-in-ten U.S. adults (83%) say that vaccines for diseases like measles, mumps and rubella are safe for healthy children, while 9% say they are not safe, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll.

While all states require children to receive certain vaccinations before they can enter public school, most states offer nonmedical exemptions to those requirements. (Every state allows exemptions for children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.)

Read More

Topics: Health Care, Religion and Government, State and Local Government

Feb 25, 2015 7:00 am

South Korea’s Millennials downbeat about payoff of education, future

In the early 1960s, South Korea had a per-capita gross domestic product comparable to that of Sierra Leone. Now, it is the 14th largest economy, but all that seems to mean little to the country’s next generation.

South Korea’s Millennials – whom we define as young people who came of age politically, economically and socially as the new millennium began – have a particularly dark view of the future, especially when compared with their counterparts around the world. In 2014, Millennials ranged in age from 18 to 33. (While some commentators have used the “Millennial” label to describe young adults in South Korea, the term is not as ubiquitous as it is in the U.S. For more on American Millennials, who are also defined by their shared cultural and historical experience, see the Pew Research Center’s extensive research.)

South Korean Millennials More PessimisticSouth Korean Millennials are downbeat about their country’s direction, doubtful of the future and pessimistic about their country’s relationship with China. South Korea is the only country in the Pew Research Center’s spring 2014 survey where young people were less likely than those ages 50 and older to say children in South Korea today will be better off financially than their parents. And despite ranking among the world’s leaders in student performance in math, science and reading, few South Korean Millennials see education and hard work as the way to get ahead in life. Read More

Topics: Asia and the Pacific, Educational Attainment, Generations and Age, Millennials

Feb 24, 2015 1:00 pm

Is U.S. fertility at an all-time low? It depends

U.S. fertility rates have reached another record low, at 62.5 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age, according to the most recent government figures. To some, this is cause for hand-wringing, as concerns arise that low fertility will spell problems for the nation’s economy; while others, concerned about limited natural resources, may look positively on the decline.

But aside from this debate, the question remains: Is this really a record low? The short answer is: It’s complicated.

That’s because there are different ways to measure fertility. Three of the most commonly used indicators of fertility are the general fertility rate (GFR); completed fertility; and the total fertility rate (TFR). All three reflect fertility behavior in slightly different ways – respectively, in terms of the annual rate at which women are presently having kids; the number of kids they ultimately have; or the hypothetical number they would likely have based upon present fertility patterns.

None of these indicators is “right” or “wrong,” but each tells a different story about when fertility bottomed out. Read More

Topics: Birth Rate and Fertility, Population Trends, Research Methodology

Feb 24, 2015 7:00 am

A college degree wasn’t always a ‘must’ for U.S. presidential candidates

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With Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker poised to run for the Republican presidential nomination next year, and performing well in early polls, one aspect of his resume is drawing closer attention: his lack of a college degree.

Not that Walker is unusual compared with the overall U.S. population: In 2013, fewer than a third (31.7%) of Americans ages 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the Digest of Education Statistics. But Walker’s lack of a four-year degree (he dropped out of Marquette University in 1990) does make him, in the words of conservative commentator Rich Lowry, “an extreme outlier among top elected officials – and the journalists and consultants who surround them.”

As we first wrote back in May 2014, the last person to win the White House without having a college degree was Harry Truman, who studied briefly at a local business college and a law school but didn’t graduate from either. Of course, Truman was the incumbent in 1948 when he beat University of Michigan and Columbia Law grad Thomas Dewey, having succeeded Harvard man Franklin Roosevelt more than three years earlier. Read More

Topics: Educational Attainment, Elections and Campaigns

Feb 23, 2015 7:00 am

6 facts about black Americans for Black History Month

Since 1976, Black History Month has been celebrated every February to commemorate the accomplishments of black Americans throughout history. In 2013, there were more than 38 million black Americans, a 74% increase since 1970, and the population is projected to grow to more than 55 million by 2060.

Over the past nearly 40 years, blacks have made progress on several fronts, including educational attainment and voting rates, but large gaps by race persist in areas such as wealth and poverty measures. Here are some facts about black Americans:

Black Dropout Rate at Record Low1High school dropout rates have declined faster among blacks ages 18 to 24 than the national average. Among blacks, the rate dropped from 24% in 1976 to 8% in 2013, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. Among all Americans, the rate also decreased, from 16% to 7% over this time period. At the same time, the share of blacks who have graduated from college has increased faster than the national average. For blacks, the share 25 and older who have at least a bachelor’s degree has increased from 7% in 1976 to 22% in 2013. Among all Americans, the share has increased from 15% to 32% over the same time period.  Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: African Americans, Income Inequality, Race and Ethnicity, Voter Participation

Feb 20, 2015 7:00 am

Among LGBT Americans, bisexuals stand out when it comes to identity, acceptance

Over the past few years, much of the energy aimed at securing rights and benefits for LGBT adults has focused on same-sex marriage. But often absent from discussions about same-sex marriage and LGBT issues more broadly are the views and experiences of bisexual adults – the “B” in LGBT.

While some high-profile music artists and actors have talked about their bisexuality, openly bisexual adults are becoming increasingly more visible in other aspects of public life. This week, Kate Brown became the first openly bisexual governor in the U.S. when she was sworn in to her new role in Oregon. Brown follows in the footsteps of Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who became the first openly bisexual member of Congress when she took office in 2013.

Bisexuals Less Likely to Say Sexual Orientation is Important to Their IdentityCompared with gay men and lesbians, bisexuals have a different perspective on their sexual orientation and a distinct set of experiences, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey of nearly 1,200 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults. Bisexuals are much less likely than gay men and lesbians to say that their sexual orientation is an important part of who they are. Only 20% of bisexuals say being bisexual is extremely or very important to their overall identity. The shares of gay men (48%) and lesbians (50%) who say the same about their sexual orientations are much higher. (Due to the small number of transgender adults in the survey, it’s not possible to break out their responses. However, they are included in the total LGBT shares reported here.) Read More

Topics: Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Gender

Feb 19, 2015 3:35 pm

Are Americans ready for Obama’s ‘middle class’ populism?

President Barack Obama enters his coming budget battle with the Republican-led Congress in a climate of American public opinion that is surprisingly positive. A growing number of Americans see signs of economic recovery, and the president’s approval ratings have increased accordingly in most national polls. At the same time, trends in public opinion are in line with Obama’s agenda: The priority given to deficit reduction has slipped somewhat, while public support for rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure has increased.

The president’s policies addressing income inequality generally meet with strong conceptual approval: The public heartily endorses efforts to improve the lot of poor people. At the same time, when it comes to income inequality, the public’s reaction to a populist approach may well be more mixed. While the public acknowledges the problem, there is less of a consensus about whether the government should take strong measures to reduce the gap between the wealthy and other Americans. It’s a highly partisan and potentially divisive issue.

Does Hard Work Lead to Success?Nonetheless, there is every indication that the public not only sees the problem of inequality, but is finding it more difficult to get ahead. The number of Americans who believe there is plenty of opportunity to get ahead through hard work has declined by 16 percentage points since the turn of the century, according to Gallup. Pew Research Center surveys also find a significant decline over this period in the share of Americans thinking that hard work leads to success. Read More

Topics: Income Inequality, Middle Class, Poverty

Feb 19, 2015 7:00 am

The skills Americans say kids need to succeed in life

What are the best skills for kids to have these days?

In today’s technology-driven world, is it best for children to hone their science and math skills to catch up with other countries that outperform the U.S.? Or is it best for them to be more well-rounded, with strong arts and athletic skills as well? Or perhaps parents should instead focus on encouraging less tangible skills in their kids, such as teamwork, logic and basic communication skills.

What Skills Kids Need to SucceedPew Research Center recently asked a national sample of adults to select among a list of 10 skills: “Regardless of whether or not you think these skills are good to have, which ones do you think are most important for children to get ahead in the world today?”

The answer was clear. Across the board, more respondents said communication skills were most important, followed by reading, math, teamwork, writing and logic. Science fell somewhere in the middle, with more than half of Americans saying it was important.

Rounding out the bottom were skills more associated with kids’ extracurricular activities: art, music (sorry, right-brained people) and athletics. There was virtually no difference in the responses based on whether the person was a parent of a child aged 18 and younger or not.

But we also found some interesting differences: Read More

Topics: Education, Teens and Youth