Apr 18, 2017 12:31 pm

Many Americans haven’t heard of the House Freedom Caucus

The House Freedom Caucus drew attention from the White House, lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the press last month because of its opposition to GOP health care legislation. But despite its prominence in Washington, the group is little known to many Americans.

About four-in-ten adults (42%) say they have heard “nothing at all” about the caucus, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted April 5-11 among 1,501 U.S. adults. Another 39% say they have heard “a little” about it, while only about one-in-five Americans (19%) say they have heard “a lot” about the group.

The House Freedom Caucus is a group of conservative Republican lawmakers in the lower chamber of Congress. It was formed in January 2015, and while the caucus does not make its membership public, it is believed to consist of about three dozen lawmakers who share the goal of pushing House GOP leaders toward more conservative positions on fiscal and social issues.

In addition to its opposition to the White House-backed health care bill last month, the caucus also reportedly played a role in the resignation of former House Speaker John Boehner in 2015.

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Topics: Congress, Federal Government, U.S. Political Parties

Apr 14, 2017 7:04 am

5 facts on how Americans view the Bible and other religious texts

Godong/UIG via Getty Images
Godong/UIG via Getty Images

This year, the Jewish festival of Passover – April 10 to 18 – coincides with the Christian celebration of Easter. And Easter, somewhat unusually, falls on April 16 in both the Orthodox and Western calendars.

Both Passover and Easter are based on biblical accounts. Passover commemorates the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, as described in the Hebrew Scriptures. Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus, as described in the Christian Gospels. In this important season for both traditions, here are five key facts about Americans and their holy texts.

1 About a third of Americans (35%) say they read scripture at least once a week, while 45% seldom or never read scripture, according to 2014 data from our Religious Landscape Study. Frequency of reading scripture differs widely among religious groups. Majorities of Jehovah’s Witnesses (88%), Mormons (77%), evangelical Protestants (63%) and members of historically black Protestant churches (61%) say they read scripture at least once a week. By contrast, 65% of Jews say they seldom or never read scripture.

2 Three-quarters of Christians say they believe the Bible is the word of God. Eight-in-ten Muslims (83%) say the Quran is the word of God, according to the 2014 survey. Far fewer Jews (37%) say they view the Torah as the word of God.

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Topics: Christians and Christianity, Jews and Judaism, Muslims and Islam, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Apr 13, 2017 11:31 am

Religious restrictions vary significantly in the world’s most populous countries

Restrictions against religious groups in the world’s 25 most populous countries — where more than 5 billion of the globe’s roughly 7.5 billion people live — vary greatly, from some of the lowest in the world (Brazil and Japan) to among the very highest (Russia and Egypt).

In addition to Russia and Egypt, India, Pakistan and Nigeria also had some of the highest levels of religious restrictions among this group of most populous countries, according to Pew Research Center’s latest annual study on the topic, which uses 2015 data (the most recent year available). In these countries, the government or society at large (or, at times, both) imposed numerous limits on religious beliefs and practices.

In India, for example, some state governments restricted religious conversion and others banned cow slaughter. (Many Hindus view cows as sacred, so these laws may disproportionally affect the minority Muslim population, as well as other non-Hindus.) India had an even higher level of social hostilities involving religion, which are perpetrated by individuals or groups in society, rather than the government. The Indian government estimated that there were 561 incidents of communal violence between January and October in 2015; these incidents resulted in 90 deaths and 1,688 injuries. In one of the incidents, a mob attacked a Muslim man for speaking with his female Hindu coworker, according to the U.S. State Department.

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Topics: Religion and Government, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Restrictions on Religion

Apr 13, 2017 7:03 am

6 facts about the U.S. military and its changing demographics

Troops assemble at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar in December 2013. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Troops assembled at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar in December 2013. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

As the size of the active-duty U.S. military has edged downward, its demographic makeup has changed, largely in ways that reflect trends in the broader society.

There were 1,340,533 active-duty troops in 2015 (including those serving in the U.S. Coast Guard). This marks the smallest active-duty force since 2001, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). In addition, the share of Americans serving in the active-duty military has declined marginally to 0.4% of the population in 2015 (down from 0.5% in 2009).

Here are some key facts about today’s military.  Read More

Topics: Demographics, Federal Government, Military and Veterans

Apr 12, 2017 11:35 am

Share of married Americans is falling, but they still pay most of the nation’s income taxes

While the share of U.S. adults who are married has been falling steadily over the past 40 years, married people continue to earn most of the nation’s income and pay the vast majority of income taxes, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of IRS tax administration data.

In 1970, 69% of adults were married, and they paid 80% of all federal income taxes. As of 2014, the share of married adults had dropped to half of the adult population (50%) but the share of income taxes paid by them fell much less, to 74%.

The same period saw a sharper decline in the share of all tax returns filed as married (either “married, filing jointly” or “married, filing separately”). In 1970, married returns accounted for 60% of all returns, but fell to just 38% in 2014 – the most recent year that complete tax data are available.

The fact that married Americans continue to pay roughly three-quarters of the nation’s income taxes, in spite of their dwindling share of the adult population, is in part a result of the changing demographics and economics of marriage. Marriage is increasingly linked with higher levels of education, which are in turn linked to higher incomes.

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Topics: Economics and Personal Finances, Marriage and Divorce, Taxes

Apr 12, 2017 7:06 am

Muslims, Jews faced social hostilities in seven-in-ten European countries in 2015

Europe in 2015 saw a rise in social hostilities involving religion, particularly against the continent’s Muslims, according to a new Pew Research Center study on global religious restrictions. Muslims faced social hostilities in seven-in-ten (71%) countries in Europe, an increase from 58% the year before.

Along with sub-Saharan Africa, Europe experienced the sharpest year-over-year increase in social hostilities targeting Muslims, with both regions registering increases of 13 percentage points. But the share of sub-Saharan African countries with hostilities toward Muslims was the second lowest (38%) of five regions evaluated, while Europe had the largest share of any region.

Social hostilities toward Jews, meanwhile, remained at high levels in Europe: In 2015, 33 of the continent’s 45 countries (73%) had incidents of social hostilities aimed at Jews, a slight increase from 32 countries (71%) the previous year.

Social hostilities are defined as actions aimed at members of religious groups by private individuals and social groups. These actions can include hostile rhetoric, vandalism and physical assaults. They differ from government restrictions on religion, which also increased in Europe in 2015.

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Topics: Europe, Jews and Judaism, Muslims and Islam, Religion and Government, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Restrictions on Religion, Sub-Saharan Africa

Apr 11, 2017 12:33 pm

U.S. private prison population has declined in recent years

After a period of steady growth, the number of inmates held in private prisons in the United States has declined modestly in recent years and continues to represent a small share of the nation’s total prison population.

In 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, about 126,000 prisoners were held in privately operated facilities under the jurisdiction of 29 states and the federal Bureau of Prisons. That’s an 83% increase since 1999, the first year with comparable data, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). By comparison, the total U.S. prison population increased 12% during that span.

In more recent years, however, both the private and overall U.S. prison populations have declined at modest rates. The private prison population has shrunk by 8% since its peak in 2012, while the overall prison population has fallen by 5% since its peak in 2009. (The state private prison population peaked in 2012 with 96,774 prisoners, while the federal private prison population reached its peak a year later in 2013, with 41,159 prisoners.)

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Topics: Criminal Justice, Domestic Affairs and Policy, Federal Government, State and Local Government

Apr 11, 2017 10:18 am

Government harassment, use of force against religious groups increased sharply in Europe in 2015

Government harassment and use of force against members of religious groups surged around the world in 2015, according to a new Pew Research Center study on global religious restrictions. But nowhere was this trend more pronounced than in Europe, where over half of countries (53%) saw an increase from the previous year.

More specifically, governments of 38 European countries (84%) harassed religious groups in limited or widespread ways in 2015, while the governments of 24 countries in Europe (53%) used some type of force against religious groups.

The increase in Europe in 2015 occurred as a record 1.3 million migrants applied for asylum on the continent. Over half of the asylum-seekers came from the Muslim-majority countries of Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. While many of the government incidents involved long-standing tensions between religious communities and European governments, some were focused on this new, incoming population.

In addition to recording the biggest increase in government harassment and use of force against religious groups, Europe also had the second-largest overall share of countries (89%) that exhibited these types of actions. Only the Middle East-North Africa region (95%) had more governments that harassed or used force against religious groups. Sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region had lower shares of government harassment or use of force against religious groups, although over seven-in-ten countries in each region had these types of government restrictions.  Read More

Topics: Europe, Religion and Government, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Restrictions on Religion

Apr 10, 2017 11:30 am

Americans have mixed views on policies encouraging broadband adoption

As the Federal Communications Commission continues to address broadband infrastructure and access, Americans have mixed views on two policies designed to encourage broadband adoption, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

A substantial majority of the public (70%) believes local governments should be able to build their own broadband networks if existing services in the area are either too expensive or not good enough, according to the survey, conducted March 13-27. Just 27% of U.S. adults say these so-called municipal broadband networks should not be allowed. (A number of state laws currently prevent cities from building their own high-speed networks, and several U.S. senators recently introduced a bill that would ban these restrictions.)

At the same time, fewer than half of Americans (44%) think the government should provide subsidies to help lower-income Americans pay for high-speed internet at home. A larger share (54%) says high-speed home internet service is affordable enough that nearly every household should be able to buy service on its own.  Read More

Topics: Broadband, Emerging Technology Impacts, Federal Government, Technology Adoption

Apr 10, 2017 7:00 am

Immigration offenses make up a growing share of federal arrests

Federal law enforcement agencies are making more arrests for immigration-related offenses and fewer arrests for other types of offenses – including drug, property and gun crimes – than they were a decade ago, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Half (50%) of the 165,265 total arrests made by the federal government in fiscal 2014 – the most recent year for which statistics are available – were for immigration-related offenses, such as crossing the border illegally or smuggling others into the United States. A decade earlier, immigration-related offenses accounted for 28% of all federal arrests.

At the same time, arrests for drug crimes fell from 23% of the total in 2004 to 14% in 2014. Those for supervision violations, such as probation or parole infractions, fell from 17% to 14%. Arrests for property crimes, including fraud and embezzlement, declined from 11% to 8%. And arrests for weapon offenses, such as possession of an unregistered firearm, fell from 7% to 4%.  Read More

Topics: Criminal Justice, Federal Government, Immigration