You don’t have to look hard to see evidence of political polarization — just watch cable news, listen to talk radio or follow social-media debates. Indeed, a new Pew Research Center report finds that Americans are more ideologically polarized today than they’ve been in at least two decades. Their representatives in Congress are divided too, and have been pulling apart since the days of M*A*S*H and Billy Beer.
With Democrats and Republicans more ideologically separated than ever before, compromises have become scarcer and more difficult to achieve, contributing to the current Congress’ inability to get much of consequence done. But going beyond anecdotal evidence to examine congressional polarization more rigorously can be tricky.
Fortunately, political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal have developed a widely accepted metric, DW-NOMINATE, that places every senator and representative on the same set of ideological scales. Using their data, it’s clear that the congressional parties, after decades of relatively little polarization, began pulling apart in the mid-1970s. Today, they say, “Congress is now more polarized than at any time since the end of Reconstruction.” Read More →
Political polarization is the defining feature of early 21st century American politics, both among the public and elected officials. As part of a year-long study of polarization, the Pew Research Center has conducted the largest political survey in its history – a poll of more than 10,000 adults between January and March of this year. It finds that Republicans and Democrats are further apart ideologically than at any point in recent history. Growing numbers of Republicans and Democrats express highly negative views of the opposing party. And to a considerable degree, polarization is reflected in the personal lives and lifestyles of those on both the right and left.
Here are 7 key findings on polarization in America today:
1The share of Americans who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades, from 10% to 21%. As a result, the amount of ideological overlap between the two parties has diminished. The “median,” or typical, Republican is now more conservative than 94% of Democrats, compared with 70% twenty years ago. And the median Democrat is more liberal than 92% of Republicans, up from 64%. Among Republicans and Democrats who are highly engaged in politics, 70% now take positions that are mostly or consistently in line with the ideological bent of their party. Read More →
Throughout its history, the Pew Research Center has periodically conducted major surveys that take an in-depth look at important trends in American political attitudes and behavior. Today we released one such survey on political polarization, which is arguably the defining feature of early 21st century American politics. This is reflected not only in the public’s views about issues ranging from immigration to guns, but also in their personal lives and lifestyles. The study is the center’s largest-yet effort — a survey of more than 10,000 adults, as well as a new component called the American Trends Panel. The survey was funded in part through grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and supported by Don C. and Jeane M. Bertsch.
Director of Survey Research Scott Keeter answered some questions about how the survey was done.
This survey includes more than 10,000 adults. Why did you decide to survey so many people for this report – isn’t a nationally representative sample usually around 1,000 people?
There are many reasons, but the most important is that having a larger number of people participating in the survey allows us to better describe the characteristics, attitudes and behaviors of smaller segments of the larger, nationwide public. For example, the larger sample allows us to interview a larger number of campaign donors, people with consistently conservative or liberal attitudes or regular primary voters. These individuals, even as smaller shares of the public, may have an outsize impact on the phenomenon of political polarization. Read More →
The Pew Research Center has watched social networking in the U.S. grow faster and change more than most other internet activities, and that landscape continues to evolve quickly. Our studies have shown that Twitter occupies an important segment of the social networking world, but, in sheer numbers, its user base lags far behind the social networking behemoth Facebook.
When Pew Research first began tracking Twitter usage in November 2010, 8% of online adults used the platform. As of January 2014, 19% of online adults were using Twitter. The last time we asked about Facebook in September 2013, we found 71% of internet users using the social network.
But judging whether Twitter can survive in a Facebook-dominated world might not be the right predictor of its staying power in the market because of the niche it occupies. Put simply: Twitter is different; not only in who it attracts, but also in how it is used and how messages spread on the platform. Twitter also often acts more like a broadcasting network than a social network, connecting speakers and their content to the public. Read More →
One of the storylines coming out of last night’s surprise loss by Republican Rep. Eric Cantor was that the immigration issue was a major point of weakness for the House majority leader. More specifically, Cantor’s relatively conservative stance on immigration reform was viewed as not conservative enough for the Tea Party base within his party.
Yet a Pew Research Center survey, conducted Jan. 23-Feb. 9, shows that most Americans favor a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, though there are partisan and ideological differences over the issue. Nationwide, 76% say people currently in the country illegally should be eligible for citizenship if they meet certain requirements, and just 23% disagree. Among Republicans, that majority slips to 66% vs. 32%. And narrowing further to Republicans who agree with the Tea Party still finds a 59% majority in favor of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and 39% opposed. Read More →
The number of Hispanics, the largest minority group in the United States, has increased nearly six-fold since 1970, to 53 million today. But in three states, the rising share of the Hispanic population has returned to levels not seen in more than a century. It’s a story similar to that of the nation’s most recent immigrant boom, which has lifted the share of immigrants in the U.S. to levels last seen a century ago.
In New Mexico and Colorado, the share of the Hispanic population today is higher than it was in 1910, according to Census Bureau data. Arizona’s current share of the Hispanic population is approaching what it was a century ago. But if you go back even further, in 1870, the share of the Hispanic population was even higher in all three states.
Large Hispanic populations in the southwestern U.S. can be traced to the Spanish exploration and settlement of the area nearly 500 years ago. In the 1500s, Spaniards explored present-day New Mexico, Arizona and parts of Colorado, lands that later became Spanish territories. Mexico took control of these areas in 1821, when it gained independence from Spain. These areas became territories of the United States in 1848 after the Mexican-American War. Statehood arrived later—1876 for Colorado, and 1912 for New Mexico and Arizona.
New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado represent three of seven states where Hispanics make up at least 20% of the population today. In New Mexico, Hispanics today make up 47% of the state’s population while the second largest group, whites, makes up 39%. The last time that Hispanics were the largest population group was in 1900, when the state was 60% Hispanic and 23% white. But by the turn of the 20th century, the share of Hispanics was on the decline. Read More →
A record number of unaccompanied children have been apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border since October, an influx so large that President Obama has called it an “urgent humanitarian situation.” To help house the overflow of children, emergency shelters have opened at military bases in California, Texas and Oklahoma, in addition to a facility in Arizona. And the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday unveiled a new $2 million legal aid program to help children navigate immigration courts.
Between Oct. 1, 2013, and May 31 of this year, 47,017 unaccompanied children under 18 traveling without a parent or guardian were taken into custody, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That total is nearly twice as high as all of the last fiscal year (24,493 apprehensions), with four months yet to go in the current fiscal year. One unofficial government estimate projects apprehensions rising to 90,000 in 2014—nearly four times as many as the year before. Read More →
As the Southern Baptist Convention begins its annual meeting Tuesday in Baltimore, the country’s largest Protestant body will confront an issue agitating many conservative evangelical Christian churches: How to navigate the rapidly shifting landscape of same-sex marriage and homosexuality.
The denomination, which claims 16 million members but also has been struggling with declining membership, defines God’s plan for marriage and sexual intimacy as between “one man and one woman,” and teaches that homosexuality is “not a ‘valid alternative lifestyle.’” According to its constitution, if a congregation decides to “affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior,” it is considered no longer “in cooperation with” the wider body.
But in February, a California pastor told his Southern Baptist congregation that he no longer believed the traditional teachings of the church regarding homosexuality. The Rev. Danny Cortez said members of New Heart Community Church and his own son, who had recently come out as gay, had helped convince him that homosexuality is not a sin. Read More →
According to today’s employment report, the U.S. finally — after six and a half years — has more jobs than it did before the housing crash and subsequent global financial crisis cratered the economy. After adjusting for seasonal variation, there were 138,463,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in May — surpassing the pre-recession peak of 138,365,000 in January 2008.
But while the country may have climbed out of the deepest jobs hole since the Depression, that hardly means everything is peachy. There are about 15 million more working-age people now than there were in January 2008, but essentially the same number of jobs. Only 58.9% of the adult population is employed, four percentage points below the level in January 2008. Read More →
Category: Chart of the Week
Some of the world’s best soccer players are gathered in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, which begins next week. But during the rest of the year, the 736 players who are members of national teams play on club teams around the world in 53 different countries.
Pew Research analyzed the final rosters for each of the 32 qualifying nations posted to FIFA’s official website and found a total of 476 players (65%) who currently play for clubs in countries outside of their World Cup nation. Think of them as “elite labor migrants,” many of whom cross borders to play for higher salaries in front of bigger audiences. Read More →