Jul 24, 2015 7:00 am

Half of all church fires in past 20 years were arsons

Church Fires Declining, but Many Still Intentionally Set

Date Undetermined cause/other Accidental fires Arson/bombings
1996 23 111 296
1997 43 127 209
1998 80 107 168
1999 75 87 147
2000 129 71 136
2001 59 62 117
2002 78 55 93
2003 68 62 128
2004 59 44 107
2005 66 65 139
2006 63 55 146
2007 61 65 122
2008 44 52 85
2009 51 31 87
2010 39 33 119
2011 31 38 75
2012 47 24 73
2013 54 33 60
2014 57 28 42
2015 29 21 29

Pew Research Center

About half of all the fires at houses of worship in the past 20 years were caused by arson, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Of the 4,705 reported fire incidents at houses of worship between 1996 and 2015, 2,378, or 51%, have been ruled intentional.

A recent spate of fires at six black churches in the South has renewed concerns about church arson. Many religious leaders and others have speculated that the fires may have been intentionally set, raising fears of racially motivated arson. As of July 14, ATF had ruled 29 of the 79 fires at houses of worship this year to be arson, though some investigations are ongoing.

While the share of church fires caused by arson has remained relatively stable over the years, the number of intentional church fires (including both arson and bombing incidents) has been dropping, as have church fires overall. Between 1996 and 2000, an average of 191 intentional fires were reported each year, accounting for 52% of all church fires. That average dropped to 74 intentional fires per year between 2010 and 2014, or 48% of all church fires. Read More

Topics: Discrimination and Prejudice, Religion and Society, Restrictions on Religion

Jul 23, 2015 2:30 pm

5 facts about the minimum wage

U.S. minimum wage value over time, adjusted
As efforts to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour have stalled repeatedly, several states and cities – from Los Angeles to New York state to Washington, D.C. – are acting on their own to raise minimum pay rates. Although some proposals target fast-food workers specifically, organized labor and anti-poverty groups are pushing for $15 an hour as the new standard for all workers paid hourly.

While the idea of raising the minimum wage is broadly popular, a Pew Research Center survey from January 2014 found clear partisan differences in support. Overall, 73% of people favored an increase in the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour, mirroring a Democratic-backed proposal that failed to move ahead in Congress last year. But while large majorities of Democrats (90%) and independents (71%) said they favored such an increase, Republicans were more evenly split (53% in favor and 43% opposed).

Here are five facts about the minimum wage and the people who earn it:

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Business and Labor, Economics and Personal Finances

Jul 23, 2015 12:00 pm

The 2016 GOP field has a bumper crop of Catholic candidates

GOP Catholics Running for President Since 1960

Only three Roman Catholics have ever run for president on a major party ticket, and all were Democrats. But that may be about to change. So far six Catholics (including some early favorites) are running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

This bumper crop of Catholic presidential candidates comes at a time when the leadership of the Republican Party is, by many measures, becoming increasingly Catholic. For instance, the House of Representatives had 69 Catholic Republicans at the beginning of the current, 114th Congress – a group that has nearly doubled in size in the last six years and includes House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

In addition, a Roman Catholic, Wisconsin Rep. Paul D. Ryan, was the GOP’s vice presidential candidate in 2012. Ryan was only the second Catholic ever to run on the Republican ticket, the first being William Edward Miller (a New York representative who was Barry Goldwater’s running mate in 1964). Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Catholics and Catholicism, Elections and Campaigns, Religious Affiliation

Jul 23, 2015 9:59 am

Around the world, dissatisfaction with economy and concern for its future

Economy Seen as in Poor Shape Nearly EverywherePeople around the world are generally disgruntled about the state of their economy, but levels of dissatisfaction vary widely by region, according to a new Pew Research Center report. And many of those who are dispirited about current economic conditions are also quite pessimistic about the financial prospects of the next generation.

Europeans are by far the most dissatisfied: A median of 70% in six countries say current economic conditions in their countries are bad. The Italians (88%), French (85%) and Spanish (81%) are the most downbeat. Only the Germans are particularly satisfied, with 75% believing their economy is in good shape.

In the Middle East, views are also negative. A median of two-thirds lament the state of their economy. Most concerned are Lebanese (89% say the economy is bad), Jordanians (73%) and Palestinians (67%).

Similarly, Latin Americans (median of 63%) say their economy is in bad shape. Brazilians (87%) and Venezuelans (83%) have particularly negative views.

Read More

Topics: Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, National Economy, Sub-Saharan Africa, World Economies

Jul 23, 2015 7:00 am

5 charts on America’s (very positive) image in Africa

When President Barack Obama travels to Kenya and Ethiopia later this week, he will likely receive a warm public reception. Obama, whose father was Kenyan, is very popular in both countries, as well as in many other nations in sub-Saharan Africa. But it’s not just Obama – as Pew Research Center surveys have shown over the years, the United States consistently receives high marks throughout the region.

Below are five charts illustrating how the U.S. is viewed in Africa.

1The U.S. receives higher favorable ratings in Africa than in any other region. Our 2015 survey found mostly positive ratings for the U.S. around the globe, but they were especially high in Africa – across the nine nations surveyed in the region, a median of 79% expressed a favorable opinion of the U.S., while just 10% had an unfavorable view.

Views of U.S. Most Favorable in Africa

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Topics: Barack Obama, Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism

Jul 22, 2015 10:55 am

Unauthorized immigrant population stable for half a decade

An estimated 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants lived in the U.S. in 2014, according to a new preliminary Pew Research Center estimate based on government data. This population has remained essentially stable for five years after nearly two decades of changes.

U.S. Unauthorized Immigrant Population Levels OffThe recent overall stability contrasts with past trends. The unauthorized immigrant population had risen rapidly during the 1990s and early 2000s, from an estimated 3.5 million in 1990 to a peak of 12.2 million in 2007. It then dropped sharply during the Great Recession of 2007-09, mainly because of a decrease in immigration from Mexico.

The overall estimate has fluctuated little in recent years because the number of new unauthorized immigrants is roughly equal to the number who are deported, leave the U.S. on their own, convert to legal status, or (in a small number of cases) die, according to the Pew Research analysis. The new unauthorized immigrant total includes people who cross the border illegally as well as those who arrive with legal visas and remain in the U.S. after their visas expire.

Pew Research estimates that, since 2009, there has been an average of about 350,000 new unauthorized immigrants each year. Of these, about 100,000 are Mexican, a much smaller share than in the past. In the years leading up to the Great Recession, Mexicans represented about half of new unauthorized immigrants. Read More

Topics: Immigration, Immigration Trends, Unauthorized Immigration

Jul 22, 2015 7:00 am

What it means to be poor by global standards

The share of the global population that is poor plunged from 29% in 2001 to 15% in 2011, elevating the living standards of 669 million people, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of the most recently available data. The magnitude of this decline seems to be without precedent in the past two centuries.

In the Pew Research study, anyone living on $2 or less daily is considered poor. (Figures are expressed in 2011 prices and purchasing power parities.)

Food a Much Greater Share of Family Budgets in India Than in U.S.But what exactly does it mean to live on $2 per day? And how does that compare with the notion of poverty in richer countries?

Deciding where the poverty line falls is tricky. There are likely as many unresolved questions as there are answers, whether in emerging nations or in advanced economies like the United States.

The examples of India, where one-in-five people live on $2 or less daily, and the U.S., where one-in-50 do, give or take, are instructive.

The $2 line arrived at in our analysis is close to the current poverty line established by India. This may be bumped up to $2.46 if a recent recommendation from the India Planning Commission is adopted. The recommended poverty line ranges from $2.13 in rural India – where nearly 70% of the population lives – to $3.09 in urban India.

Read More

Topics: Income, Income Inequality, Population Trends, Poverty, Wealth

Jul 21, 2015 8:55 am

Work moves ahead on TPP trade pact, but nations still divided over deal

Trade ministers from the U.S. and 11 other nations from both sides of the Pacific will meet in Hawaii next Tuesday to attempt to finalize what would be the world’s largest regional trade and investment agreement: the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But while the pact has general public support in most of the countries involved, there are also deep partisan divisions in some of them over the issue.

This partisanship suggests that TPP, one of President Barack Obama’s principal foreign economic policy legacies, is not yet a done deal.

Support for Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade DealTPP involves a dozen Asian-Pacific nations, nine of which Pew Research Center surveyed earlier this year. Among those publics, a median of 53% think the deal would be good for their country, while a median of 23% say it would be a bad thing.

In the U.S., public backing for the treaty, which the Obama administration regards as a key element of its “pivot” to Asia, is tepid at best. Americans support TPP by a 49%-29% margin, though nearly a quarter offer no opinion.

The strongest support for the agreement is found in Vietnam, where 89% of the public backs the potential accord. The weakest support is in the U.S. and in Malaysia (38%). The greatest outright opposition is in Canada (31%), Australia (30%) and the U.S. And about one-in-ten Americans (12%) and 31% of Malaysians say they haven’t heard of the negotiations. Read More

Topics: Asia and the Pacific, Globalization and Trade, World Economies

Jul 21, 2015 7:00 am

The challenges of polling when fewer people are available to be polled

Around the world, pollsters have had some high-profile flops lately. In both the U.K. and Israel, pre-election polls earlier this year predicted much tighter races than actually occurred. Last year, Scots voted against independence by a wider-than-expected margin. In the U.S., many pollsters underestimated last year’s Republican midterm wave, and some observers have suggested that polls simply aren’t appropriate tools for studying certain subjects, such as religion.

Cliff Zukin, past president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research and a Rutgers University political science professor, wrote recently that “two trends are driving the increasing unreliability of election and other polling in the United States: the growth of cellphones and the decline in people willing to answer surveys.”

Despite those challenges, social scientists, market researchers, political operatives and others still rely on polls to find out what people are thinking, feeling and doing. But with response rates low and heading lower, how can survey researchers have confidence in their findings? Scott Keeter, director of survey research at Pew Research Center, addresses this and related questions below.

Scott Keeter, director of survey research at Pew Research Center, discusses the challenges facing pollsters.
Scott Keeter, director of survey research at Pew Research Center

Do low response rates in and of themselves make a poll unreliable?

The short answer here is “no.” The potential for what pollsters call “nonresponse bias” – the unwelcome situation in which the people we’re not reaching are somehow systematically different from the people we are reaching, thus biasing our poll results – certainly is greater when response rates are low. But the mere existence of low response rates doesn’t tell us anything about whether or not nonresponse bias exists. In fact, numerous studies, including our own, have found that the response rate in and of itself is not a good measure of survey quality, and that thus far, nonresponse bias is a manageable problem.

Read More

Topics: Polling, Research Methodology

Jul 20, 2015 12:06 pm

Latin America’s middle class grows, but in some regions more than others

As a whole, Latin America enjoyed solid economic growth in the first decade of this century, with a fall in poverty, a decrease in income inequality and a rise of its middle class. But in many respects, it was a tale of two Americas, with South America and Mexico seeing more of these gains than Central America and the Caribbean.

A Middle-Income Population Emerges in South America and MexicoFrom 2001 to 2011, South America was one of three areas in the world (along with China and Eastern Europe) that significantly expanded its middle-income population, according to a new Pew Research Center report. Driven by an abundant supply of commodities for export (oil, copper, iron, soybeans, beef, etc.) and a surge in commodity prices worldwide, many South American economies prospered from global trade and from the steady demand of resources in an increasingly industrialized China.

South America’s middle-income population grew 11 percentage points, from 16% of the region’s total population in 2001 to 27% in 2011, and the share of people who were poor dropped 10 points in the same time frame, from 17% to 7%.

By contrast, the economic status of people in Central America and the Caribbean went mostly unchanged from 2001 to 2011. The middle-income share of the population grew only modestly, from 19% to 21%, while the share that is poor declined by just 3 percentage points.

Meanwhile, Latin America overall saw its income gap narrow over time. From 2000 to 2013, the incomes of poorer households grew at a higher rate than incomes of richer households, according to the World Bank. Read More

Topics: Income Inequality, Latin America, Mexico, Middle Class, Poverty, World Economies