Feb 16, 2015 7:00 am

Presidential job approval ratings from Ike to Obama

Perhaps no measure better captures the public’s sentiment toward the president than job approval. It dates back to the earliest days of public opinion polling, when George Gallup asked about Franklin D. Roosevelt starting in the 1930s:

“Do you approve or disapprove of the way ____ is handling his job as president?”

Our poll last month showed that 47% of Americans approved of Barack Obama’s job performance – up 5 points from his 42% rating in December. Digging deeper into job approval ratings reveals additional insights about the public’s views of its leaders. We looked at Pew Research Center data going back to Bill Clinton, and Gallup data going back to Dwight Eisenhower. These ratings reflect, for example, how views of presidents have become more politically polarized, as well as how key events in U.S. history have helped shape positive and negative views of our commanders in chief.

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Political Polarization, Presidential Approval, U.S. Political Figures

Feb 13, 2015 10:18 am

National Academies: Census survey data should be more user-friendly


The U.S. Census Bureau should be paying more attention to the needs and opinions of the people and organizations that use its data, according to a recent National Academy of Sciences report.

The report, which focused on the American Community Survey, recommended that the bureau sharpen its sometimes confusing advice on evaluating data quality, consider trimming the number of tables it produces, and make it easier for users – both inexperienced and more advanced – to access statistics they need.

The American Community Survey is “an invaluable resource,” but the bureau should do more to make sure the survey meets researchers’ needs, including establishing a formal advisory group of users, according to the panel of data scientists who wrote the report at the Census Bureau’s request. The National Academy of Sciences is a private nonprofit organization, established by Congress, that provides independent advice on science and technology. Read More

Topics: Federal Government, Population Trends, U.S. Census

Feb 13, 2015 7:00 am

From telegrams to Instagram, a look at presidents and technology

Obama selfie stick Buzzfeed
Buzzfeed captured President Obama with a selfie stick, a gif they promoted with the online site’s sit-down interview with him.

President Barack Obama’s recent interviews with Buzzfeed and Vox attracted considerable attention and comment — both as signs that those digital-media companies are emerging as significant news organizations, and as The New York Times put it, examples of the administration’s ongoing “efforts to connect with millennials and broaden its reach beyond traditional media outlets.” (See also Obama’s 2012 “Ask Me Anything” chat on Reddit, his Instagram account, and the 54.8 million followers of his official Twitter feed.)

Obama’s embrace of online news and social media continues a long tradition of presidents employing the latest communications technologies to speak to Americans directly rather than through the Washington press corps. In honor of Presidents Day, and given our abiding interest in all things tech, here’s a rundown of how presidents have adopted and used the “new media” of their eras. Read More

Topics: Politics Online, Social Media, Television

Feb 12, 2015 2:30 pm

Almost all U.S. presidents have been Christians

Nearly half of all U.S. presidents are Episcopalian or Presbyterian

The U.S. Constitution famously prohibits any religious test or requirement for public office. Still, most of the men who have been president have been openly religious, with many belonging to some of the country’s most prominent Protestant denominations.

Indeed, about a quarter of the presidents – including some of the nation’s most famous leaders, like George Washington, James Madison and Franklin Roosevelt – were members of the Episcopal Church, the American successor to the Church of England.

The next largest group of presidents were affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, which has roots in Scotland. Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Reagan, all of whom had Scots-Irish ancestry, were among the commanders in chief who belonged to the denomination.

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Topics: Religion and Government, Religion and U.S. Politics, Religious Affiliation

Feb 12, 2015 1:27 pm

America’s news anchors are less recognizable now, but network news is still alive

NBC’s suspension of anchor Brian Williams from the helm of its flagship evening news program has led to some debate about the future for network television news.

Pew Research Center’s surveys have found that national recognition for America’s top news anchors isn’t what it used to be. Just 27% of Americans recognized a photo of Brian Williams and correctly identified him in 2013 – a far cry from the 47% of Americans who could correctly identify Dan Rather in a 1985 poll.

A poll last fall found NBC News among the most trusted news brands in the country. Half said they trusted NBC News, according to a Pew Research Center survey. That ranked NBC among the highest of 36 news organizations we asked about, on par with ABC News (50%) and CBS News (46%) as well as CNN (54%) and Fox News (44%).

While evening news audiences have been steadily declining for some time, they remain a major source for news for many Americans. And NBC Nightly News attracts a middle-aged audience that is roughly the same as that of the major cable networks.

Here are 5 facts about NBC and network television and their place in the media landscape.
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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: News Media Sectors, News Sources, State of the News Media, Television

Feb 12, 2015 11:23 am

5 facts about online video, for YouTube’s 10th birthday

On Valentine’s Day 10 years ago, a group of former PayPal employees founded YouTube as an easy way to find and share videos. Today it’s one of the most visited websites in the world and is widely used by news organizations, politicians and music artists. (Psy’s Gangnam Style has over 2 billion views, making it the most watched YouTube video of all time.)

Besides big brands, some regular users have amassed a large following. Recently, a trio of YouTube content creators interviewed President Barack Obama on his policy goals. Overall, the video-sharing firm says that 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

On the company’s 10th birthday, here are 5 facts about YouTube and online video sharing: Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Internet Activities, Online Video, Social Media

Feb 12, 2015 7:00 am

On Darwin Day, 5 facts about the evolution debate

Photograph of Charles Darwin by Maull and Polyblank for the Literary and Scientific Portrait Club (1855) via Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Charles_Darwin#mediaviewer/File:Charles_Darwin_by_Maull_and_Polyblank,_1855-1.jpg
Photograph of Charles Darwin by Maull and Polyblank for the Literary and Scientific Portrait Club (1855) via Wikimedia Commons.

Today is the 206th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, a day now celebrated by some as Darwin Day. Darwin, of course, is best known for his theory of evolution through natural selection. When Darwin’s work was first made public in 1859, it shocked Britain’s religious establishment. And while today it is accepted by virtually all scientists, evolutionary theory is still rejected by many Americans, often because it conflicts with their religious beliefs about divine creation.

While not an official holiday, Darwin Day has been adopted by scientific and humanist groups to promote everything from scientific literacy to secularism. This year, more than 100 events have been planned worldwide, many of them anchored by scientific talks or symposia. Others, such as a production of “Charles Darwin, Vampire Slayer” in California, are a little less serious.

Here are five facts about the public’s views on evolution as well as other aspects of the debate in the U.S. and elsewhere: Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Evolution, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Science and Innovation

Feb 11, 2015 4:08 pm

Jon Stewart to step down from The Daily Show, where he pioneered news through comedy

After 16 years, Jon Stewart announced Tuesday that he would be stepping down from The Daily Show, but his legacy may be the creation of a new way for Americans to consume news through comedy, with others, such as Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, following his lead.

As Stewart moves on to his next endeavor, here are some key facts about how he has carved out his place in the journalistic world.

1FT_2015-02-11_daily-show-01While it’s nowhere near the top, a fair number of Americans get their news from The Daily Show. When we asked online adults last year about whether they got news in the past week from a list of 36 different news outlets, 12% cited The Daily Show, according to a recent report on media habits and political polarization in America. Major cable and network news organizations such as CNN and Fox News were at the top, and The Daily Show was on par with other news outlets such as USA Today (12%) and Huffington Post (13%). Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Generations and Age, News Media Trends, Political Polarization, Television

Feb 11, 2015 2:59 pm

States suing Obama over immigration programs are home to 46% of those who may qualify

Less than half – 2.3 million – of the nation’s unauthorized immigrants who potentially qualify for deportation relief and work permits under President Barack Obama’s executive actions live in the 26 states that have joined a lawsuit to stop the move, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

The president’s programs are open to an estimated 5 million unauthorized immigrants who were either brought illegally to the country as children or who are parents with a child who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, so long as they meet certain requirements.

A group of states led by Texas filed a lawsuit in December to stop the actions, arguing that the president didn’t have the authority to make the changes. A federal judge heard arguments in January. A ruling could come before Feb. 18, the day the U.S. Department of Homeland Security starts accepting applications from those who arrived in the U.S. as children and have become newly eligible (some have already received relief based on a 2012 program). Read More

Topics: Domestic Affairs and Policy, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Unauthorized Immigration

Feb 11, 2015 10:00 am

European Millennials are cool toward Russia, but warmer than older generations

EU Millennials Views of RussiaAt a time of growing tension between Europe and Russia, amid speculation about the return of the Cold War, European Millennials, the generation that came of age after the end of the Cold War, show little affection for Russia.

In six of seven European Union countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center, roughly a third or less of young people born after 1980 have a favorable opinion of Russia. This poll was conducted March 17 to April 9, 2014, after Crimea’s annexation by Russia but prior to subsequent fighting in eastern Ukraine. The greatest antipathy toward Russia is among young Poles and Germans. Greek Millennials, however, are notably pro-Russian, with a majority saying they have favorable views of the country. Read More

Topics: Europe, Millennials, Russia, Western Europe