Apr 6, 2017 10:31 am

Public confidence in scientists has remained stable for decades

Recent surveys by Pew Research Center and other organizations have shown wide public divides in the U.S. over climate change, food science and other science-related issues. But public confidence in the scientific community as a whole has remained stable for decades, according to data collected by NORC, an independent research organization at the University of Chicago. The group’s 2016 General Social Survey results, released March 29, show that 40% of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the scientific community, while half (50%) have only some confidence and 6% have hardly any confidence.

Public confidence in scientists stands out among the most stable of about 13 institutions rated in the GSS survey since the mid-1970s. While a similar share of Americans report having a great deal of confidence in the medical community, that confidence declined in the early 1990s and has ticked downward again in more recent years, from 41% in 2010 to 36% in NORC’s most recent survey.  Read More

Topics: Business and Labor, Science and Innovation

Apr 6, 2017 9:30 am

Americans remain divided on how the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution

The contentious Senate debate over Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court has cast a spotlight on deep partisan and ideological divisions in Congress – and in the public – over how the high court should interpret the Constitution when making its decisions.

About half of the public (46%) says the U.S. Supreme Court should make its rulings based on its understanding of what the Constitution “meant as it was originally written,” while an identical share says the court should base its rulings on what the Constitution “means in current times,” according to a survey conducted in October. Public opinion about this issue has changed little in recent years.

Republicans and Democrats continue to have very different views about how the Supreme Court should base its rulings: About three-quarters (74%) of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say it should base its rulings on its understanding of the Constitution’s original meaning, while about a quarter (23%) of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the same. This gap is slightly wider than it was in February 2014, when 68% of Republicans and Republican leaners and 27% of Democrats and Democratic leaners said the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution based on how it was originally written.  Read More

Topics: U.S. Political Parties, Supreme Court, Political Party Affiliation, Political Polarization

Apr 6, 2017 6:55 am

Number of U.S. adults cohabiting with a partner continues to rise, especially among those 50 and older

As marriage rates have fallen, the number of U.S. adults in cohabiting relationships has continued to climb, reaching about 18 million in 2016. This is up 29% since 2007, when 14 million adults were cohabiting, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Roughly half of cohabiters – those living with an unmarried partner – are younger than 35. But an increasing number of Americans ages 50 and older are in cohabiting relationships, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of the Current Population Survey. In fact, cohabiters ages 50 and older represented about a quarter (23%) of all cohabiting adults in 2016.

Since 2007, the number of cohabiting adults ages 50 and older grew by 75%. This increase is faster than that of other age groups during this time period and is driven in part by the aging of Baby Boomers. In 2016, 4 million adults ages 50 and older were cohabiting – up from 2.3 million in 2007. By comparison, 8.9 million adults ages 18 to 34 were cohabiting last year, up from 7.2 million.  Read More

Topics: Lifestyle, Family and Relationships, Marriage and Divorce, Baby Boomers, Generations and Age, Household and Family Structure, Older Adults

Apr 5, 2017 10:16 am

Christians remain world’s largest religious group, but they are declining in Europe

Christians remained the largest religious group in the world in 2015, making up nearly a third (31%) of Earth’s 7.3 billion people, according to a new Pew Research Center demographic analysis. But the report also shows that the number of Christians in what many consider the religion’s heartland, the continent of Europe, is in decline.

Christians had the most births and deaths of any religious group in recent years, according to our demographic models. Between 2010 and 2015, an estimated 223 million babies were born to Christian mothers and roughly 107 million Christians died – a natural increase of 116 million.  Read More

Topics: Europe, Religious Affiliation, Christians and Christianity, Muslims and Islam

Apr 5, 2017 6:55 am

Americans hold very negative views of North Korea amid nuclear tensions

Americans have uniformly negative views of North Korea and its nuclear ambitions – a subject likely to be high on the agenda when President Donald Trump meets in Florida this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Roughly two-thirds of Americans (65%) are very concerned about North Korea having nuclear weapons. And 64% say that in the event of a serious conflict, the United States should use military force to defend its Asian allies, such as Japan, South Korea or the Philippines, against the Pyongyang regime, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. A further 61% think sanctions, rather than attempts at closer ties, are the best way to deal with the nuclear threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Overall, 78% of Americans have an unfavorable view of the communist nation ruled by Kim Jong Un, with 61% holding a very unfavorable opinion. Negative attitudes toward North Korea are shared across demographic groups, though more college-educated Americans hold negative views (91%) than do Americans with a high school education or less (69%). Unlike public opinion on other aspects of U.S. foreign policy, there are no significant partisan divides on attitudes toward North Korea.  Read More

Topics: Asia and the Pacific, Country Image, International Threats and Allies, Nuclear Threats, International Governments and Institutions, North America

Apr 4, 2017 3:01 pm

Why workers don’t always take family or medical leave when they need to

Most Americans say they have taken or are very likely to take family or medical leave at some point (62%), but many, particularly among lower-income workers, aren’t able to take time off from work when these situations arise, according to a new Pew Research Center study.

About one-in-six adults (16%) who have been employed in the past two years say there was a time during this period when they needed or wanted to take time off from work following the birth or adoption of their child, to care for a family member with a serious health condition or to deal with their own serious health condition, but were unable to do so. This figure rises to 30% among those with household incomes under $30,000.  Read More

Topics: Work and Employment, Income, Health Care, Family and Relationships, Family Roles, Parenthood, Health

Apr 4, 2017 7:02 am

What does the federal government spend your tax dollars on? Social insurance programs, mostly

It’s springtime, which means the start of the budgeting process for Congress and a mad dash for many Americans to file their income taxes. That makes it a good time to look at the federal government’s spending habits in a broader context than just this year’s battles.

When thinking about federal spending, it’s worth remembering that, as former Treasury official Peter Fisher once said, the federal government is basically “a gigantic insurance company,” albeit one with “a sideline business in national defense and homeland security.” In fiscal year 2016, which ended this past Sept. 30, the federal government spent just under $4 trillion, and about $2.7 trillion – more than two-thirds of the total – went for various kinds of social insurance (Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, unemployment compensation, veterans benefits and the like). Another $604 billion, or 15.3% of total spending, went for national defense; net interest payments on government debt was about $240 billion, or 6.1%. Education aid and related social services were about $114 billion, or less than 3% of all federal spending. Everything else – crop subsidies, space travel, highway repairs, national parks, foreign aid and much, much more – accounted for the remaining 6%.

It can be helpful to look at spending as a share of the overall U.S. economy, which provides a consistent frame of reference over long periods. In fiscal 2016, total federal outlays were 21.5% of gross domestic product, or GDP. For most of the past several decades, federal spending has hovered within a few percentage points above or below 20%. The biggest recent exception came in the wake of the 2008 mortgage crash: In fiscal 2009, a surge in federal relief spending combined with a shrinking economy to push federal outlays to 24.4% of GDP, the highest level since World War II, when federal spending peaked at nearly 43% of GDP. (We relied on archived historical data from former President Barack Obama’s final budget for our spending data; President Donald Trump’s initial budget proposal doesn’t include any historical data.)  Read More

Topics: Economic Policy, Entitlements, Congress, Federal Government, Government Spending and the Deficit, Taxes

Apr 3, 2017 11:10 am

The narrowing, but persistent, gender gap in pay

The gender gap in pay has narrowed since 1980, particularly among younger workers, but it still persists. In 2015, women earned 83% of what men earned, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time U.S. workers.

Based on this estimate, it would take an extra 44 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2015. (By comparison, the Census Bureau found that women earned 80% of what their male counterparts earned in 2015 when looking at full-time, year-round workers only.)

But for adults ages 25 to 34, the 2015 wage gap is smaller. Women in this group earned 90 cents for every dollar a man in the same age group earned.

Read More

Topics: Gender, Work and Employment, Income, Family and Relationships, Generations and Age, Family Roles, Business and Labor, Income Inequality

Apr 3, 2017 6:57 am

As Republicans’ views improve, Americans give the economy its highest marks since financial crisis

What a difference a year, and possibly an election, makes. Nearly six-in-ten people in the United States (58%) say the economic situation is very or somewhat good, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted Feb. 16-March 15. Last spring, 44% of the American public described the economy as good.

This is the most positive assessment of U.S. economic conditions since 2007, and only the second time that half or more of those surveyed have given the economy a thumbs-up. Driving the latest increase is a jump among Republicans over the past year.

The 14-percentage-point rise in overall public opinion about the economy since last year is the largest one-year improvement in public sentiment about economic conditions in the history of this survey. The current rosy assessment stands in stark contrast to where opinion stood immediately after the beginning of the financial crisis in spring 2008, when just 20% said economic conditions were good.  Read More

Topics: Income, U.S. Political Parties, Generations and Age, National Economy, Economic Recession

Mar 30, 2017 12:44 pm

Partisans in ‘safest’ counties for their party more willing to discuss political differences

In the wake of the 2016 election, Republicans and Democrats who live in the “safest” counties politically – those that their party’s presidential candidate won by overwhelming margins – expressed more willingness to address political differences in conversation than did partisans living in counties where the vote was more competitive.

At the national level, there was almost no difference in these views between Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and Democrats and Democratic leaners. About half of Republicans and Democrats (51% of each) said it was better to avoid talking about political differences, while nearly as many said it was better to address differences to try to find common ground.

But a new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data collected in fall 2016, along with county-level election data, finds that partisans living in counties in which their party was politically dominant that year were much more likely to support seeking common ground when it comes to political differences than were those who lived in politically mixed places, or in which the other party was dominant.

A majority (62%) of Republicans and Republican leaners in counties that went very strongly for Donald Trump in the general election (those where his share of the two-party vote was at least 40 percentage points greater than Hillary Clinton’s) said that when these disagreements happened, it was better to try to find common ground. In counties that Trump won less resoundingly, or those where Clinton prevailed, Republicans were less likely to seek common ground on politics and more likely to prefer to avoid talking about differences, according to the national survey conducted Nov. 29-Dec. 12 among 4,138 adults on Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel.

Read More

Topics: U.S. Political Parties, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Polarization, 2016 Election, Donald Trump