Jun 30, 2016 12:03 pm

Electorally competitive counties have grown scarcer in recent decades

Swing counties clustered in upper Midwest and on outskirts of urban areas

When it comes to presidential elections, there are fewer competitive counties, and more counties in which Democrats or Republicans hold overwhelming vote advantages, than at any time in the past three decades or so – on-the-ground evidence of the heightened partisan polarization that characterizes U.S. politics today.

Politically competitive counties have become even less commonIn the 2012 election, there were only 275 counties – less than 9% of all counties and county-equivalents in the nation – in which fewer than 5 percentage points separated Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of county-level voting data. That was the fewest closely contested counties since Ronald Reagan’s landslide re-election in 1984.

Closely contested counties aren’t, as you might expect, predominantly in the “swing states” that get the lion’s share of attention from presidential campaigns and the media covering them. While there were notable concentrations in 2012 in the upper Midwest and along the Pacific coast, closely contested counties were scattered across the country; they could be found in both strongly Democratic states (such as California and New York) and largely Republican ones (such as Texas and North Dakota).  Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Elections and Campaigns, Political Polarization

Jun 30, 2016 7:00 am

Sharing and on-demand services attract a small but active group of ‘super users’

Few Americans are 'super users' of shared and on-demand services

From ride-hailing apps to shopping services, the sharing and on-demand economy has grown in the U.S., yet a relatively small minority of the public is incorporating shared and on-demand services deeply into their day-to-day lives. Still, some Americans are “super users”: 7% have used six or more services (out of a total of 11), according to a Pew Research Center study.

Some of the services measured in our survey – though by no means all – are relatively new, and their users exhibit common characteristics of early adopters: Nearly six-in-ten are college graduates, and roughly half have an annual household income of $75,000 or more (with one-in-five earning more than $150,000 annually). Just over one-third of these intensive users are ages 18 to 29, and the median age of this group is just 34.  Read More

Topics: Internet Activities, Social Media, Technology Adoption

Jun 29, 2016 11:55 am

Roughly half of Hispanics have experienced discrimination

About half of Hispanics in the U.S. (52%) say they have experienced discrimination or have been treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity, according to a newly released Pew Research Center survey on race in America.

Hispanics' experience with discriminationHispanics’ experience with discrimination or being treated unfairly varies greatly by age. Among Hispanics ages 18 to 29, 65% say they have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment because of their race or ethnicity. By comparison, only 35% of Hispanics 50 and older say the same – a 30-percentage-point gap.

In addition, Hispanics born in the U.S. (62%) are more likely than immigrants (41%) to say they have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment. There are also differences by race. For example, 56% of nonwhite Hispanics say this has happened at some point in their lives, a higher share than that among white Hispanics (41%).

Hispanics are significantly less likely than blacks (71%) to say they have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment due to their race or ethnicity at some point in their lives, a gap that extends across most demographic subgroups, including gender and education. However, there is no difference among those ages 18 to 29. Some 65% of blacks in this age group, and an equal share of young Hispanics, say they have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment. Read More

Topics: Discrimination and Prejudice, Hispanic/Latino Identity, Race and Ethnicity

Jun 29, 2016 9:50 am

Key takeaways on international image of the U.S., Obama and presidential candidates

In President Barack Obama’s last year in office, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that views of the United States remain strongly favorable in key European and Asian nations. Compared with China, the U.S. is viewed more favorably and seen more often as the world’s leading economic power. Obama continues to receive high confidence ratings, and across the 15 countries surveyed, his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, gets considerably higher marks than Donald Trump.

Here are key takeaways from the report.

1U.S. vs. China favorabilityViews of the U.S. remain positive, especially when compared with China. Half or more in almost every nation surveyed have a favorable opinion of the U.S. The highest marks for the U.S. are found in Poland, Italy and Japan. About half or more of Indians and Chinese also have a positive view of America. The only country surveyed in which views are negative is Greece, where only 38% have a positive opinion of the U.S.

China receives lower ratings than the U.S. in virtually every country surveyed. This includes positive ratings of just 11% from neighboring Japan, and 31% from India. European countries also see China negatively, with no country expressing majority support except Greece, where 57% have a positive view of China. Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Barack Obama, U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism, U.S. Political Figures

Jun 28, 2016 11:31 am

Blacks have made gains in U.S. political leadership, but gaps remain

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., flanked from left by Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Senate Judiciary ranking member Pat Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks during a news conference on criminal justice reform legislation in October 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks during a news conference on criminal justice reform legislation in October 2015. Booker and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., at far right, are the first two black U.S. senators to serve simultaneously. From left are Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking member Pat Leahy, D-Vt.; and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Barack Obama’s election to the highest political office in the land in 2008 was a proud moment for many Americans. It represented another advance in the slow but steady progress blacks have made in recent decades in gaining a greater foothold in political leadership, particularly in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the Cabinets of recent presidents. But they have lagged in the Senate and in governorships.

Many blacks view political representation as a potential catalyst for increased racial equality, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Roughly four-in-ten black adults (38%) say that working to get more black people elected to office would be a very effective tactic for groups striving to help blacks achieve equality. Whites are less likely to view this as an effective way to bring about increased racial equality (24% say it would be very effective).

Data from the past 50 years reveal the upward yet uneven trajectory of black political leadership in America. In 1965, there were no blacks in the U.S. Senate, nor were there any black governors. And only six members of the House of Representatives were black. By 2015, there was greater representation in some areas (44 House members were black) but little change in others (there were two black senators and one black governor). The share of blacks who have served in a presidential Cabinet, however, has been generally high – even above parity with the population – under administrations in the past two decades.

Read More

Topics: African Americans, Congress, State and Local Government, U.S. Political Figures

Jun 28, 2016 7:00 am

Religious restrictions among the world’s most populous countries

Levels of religious restrictions and hostilities among the world’s 25 most populous countries — where more than 5 billion of the globe’s roughly 7.5 billion people live — vary tremendously, from some of the lowest in the world (Japan) to among the very highest (Egypt).

Religious Restrictions Worldwide 2007-2014In addition to Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey had some of the highest levels of religious restrictions, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center that uses 2014 data (the most recent year for which data were available). In these countries, both the government and society at large imposed numerous limits on religious beliefs and practices.

In Egypt, for example, there were several sectarian attacks during 2014. In March of that year, a Christian woman was attacked by a group of Muslim Brotherhood supporters when they saw a crucifix in her car. According to reports, the woman was pulled by her hair into the street, beaten and killed. And in Russia, the government passed a new law limiting activity at houses of worship. The law imposes strict new reporting requirements for religious groups seeking to organize events and ceremonies in public spaces, according to the U.S. Department of State’s annual International Religious Freedom report. Read More

Topics: Religion and Government, Religion and Society, Restrictions on Religion

Jun 27, 2016 11:00 am

5 key takeaways about views of race and inequality in America

A new Pew Research Center survey finds profound differences between black and white Americans in how they view the current state of race relations and racial equality and in the ways they experience day-to-day life.

Here are five key takeaways from the new report on race in America:

1Black and white Americans differ widely in views on race relationsWhites and blacks are split over the current state of race relations and what progress Obama has made on the issue. About six-in-ten blacks (61%) say race relations are generally bad, while about equal shares of whites say race relations are good as say they’re bad. Overall views on race relations are more positive now than they were a year ago, following the unrest in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died while in police custody. Even so, the public’s views of race relations are more negative now than they have been for much of the 2000s.

Following the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first black president in 2008, many voters were optimistic that his election would lead to better race relations. Today, about a third of Americans (34%) say Obama has made progress on improving race relations, while about three-in-ten (28%) say he has tried but failed to make progress. A quarter say the president has made race relations worse and 8% say he has not addressed race relations. Blacks are far more likely than whites or Hispanics to say Obama has made progress on race relations (51% vs. 28% and 38%, respectively). Among whites, Republicans are particularly likely to say the president has made race relations worse: 63% of white Republicans say this is the case. Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: African Americans, Race and Ethnicity, Socioeconomic Class

Jun 27, 2016 10:30 am

5 facts about abortion

More than four decades after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, opponents and supporters of abortion rights are still battling over the issue in court. Most recently, on June 27, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that required abortion clinics in the state to meet the same health and safety standards as medical centers that perform outpatient surgeries. The Texas law also required doctors who work at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision reversed a lower court ruling last year that had upheld the law. The high court’s ruling could very well seal the fate of similar laws in 12 other states, some of which were already on hold pending this latest ruling.

Texas officials had argued that the law was necessary to protect the health and safety of women. They pointed to cases such as that of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who in 2013 was convicted of killing babies born alive, as justification for tightening health regulations at clinics.

But abortion rights supporters countered that the statute was largely intended to make it impossible for most abortion providers in Texas to remain open. Indeed, they said, if the law had been upheld, only nine of what had until recently been 42 clinics in the state would ultimately remain open to serve an estimated 60,000 Texas women who seek abortions each year.

Meanwhile, public opinion on abortion has held relatively steady, with Americans roughly divided on the issue. Here are a few key facts about Americans’ views on the topic, based on recent Pew Research Center polling:

1When asked directly about the legality of abortion56% of U.S. adults say it should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 41% who say it should be illegal all or most of the time. In both cases, these figures have remained relatively stable for at least two decades.

2There is a substantial ideological divide on abortion, with Democrats much more likely than Republicans to say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. This gap is even larger between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans. Fully 84% of liberal Democrats say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with only three-in-ten self-described conservatives in the GOP. 

Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Abortion

Jun 27, 2016 7:00 am

Partisanship in the U.S. isn’t just about politics, but how people see their neighbors

In an era of increasing polarization, Republicans and Democrats disagree over many things – and that extends even to the traits and habits they’d like or dislike in a new neighbor. Some of the widest gaps in how people of different parties see new neighbors are over new community members who own guns, don’t believe in God, regularly attend religious services or have served in the military.

A new Pew Research Center study of partisanship and political animosity finds that about four-in-ten Republicans (43%) and Democrats (42%) said it would be easier to befriend a new community member who shared their partisan affiliation. Conversely, 31% of Democrats and 27% of Republicans say it would be harder to get along with a new neighbor from the other party.

Yet the partisan differences over hypothetical characteristics of new neighbors go beyond their party or their ideology.

Meet the neighbors: Partisan differences over traits of new community members

Democrats express more negative views of gun ownership than any of the other 15 traits asked about in the survey – even more negative than the prospect of having a Republican or a conservative as a new neighbor. Read More

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation, Social Values, U.S. Political Parties

Jun 24, 2016 1:50 pm

Brexit vote highlighted UK’s discontent with EU, but other European countries are grumbling too

The decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union – known as Brexit – shines a spotlight on the divisions in public opinion between the UK and the continental members of the EU, and within the UK on a range of issues relating to the future of Europe.

The June 23 referendum – in which the public voted 52% to 48% to leave – is a reminder that the British have never been as enamored with the EU as most of their continental counterparts. Britons have criticized the EU for its handling of a range of issues, resent the loss of power to the Brussels-based institution and are divided among themselves about the institution they first joined in 1973.

More broadly, a Pew Research Center survey conducted this spring found that publics in a number of other EU countries share the British desire for a less, not more, centralized Europe, and that the debate about the future of the EU will not subside just because the UK has now voted.

1British consistently more negative on European UnionThe EU has never been as popular in the UK as it has been among other EU members. Just 44% of the public in the UK has a favorable view of the EU, compared with a median of 50% who hold a favorable opinion in five other EU nations surveyed by Pew Research Center. Support for the EU is down in the UK from a high of 52% in 2014. British views of the EU have consistently been lower than those on the continent for nearly a decade.

Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Europe, International Governments and Institutions, International Organizations, Western Europe