Mar 6, 2015 1:52 pm

Americans are still divided on why people are gay

Potential Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson made news earlier this week when he said that being gay is a “choice,” but when it comes to public opinion, polls show that Americans remain divided over whether “nature” or “nurture” is ultimately responsible for sexual orientation.

Four-in-ten Americans (42%) said that being gay or lesbian is “just the way some choose to live,” while a similar share (41%) said that “people are born gay or lesbian,” according to the most recent Pew Research Center poll on the issue, conducted in 2013.

Fewer U.S. adults (8%) said that people are gay or lesbian due to their upbringing, while another one-in-ten (9%) said they didn’t know or declined to give a response.

Americans With College Degrees More Likely to Say Gays, Lesbians Born That WayPeople with the most education are the most likely to say that gays and lesbians were born that way. Indeed, 58% of Americans with a postgraduate degree say that people are born gay or lesbian, compared with just 35% of those with a high school diploma or less. Read More

Topics: Gay Marriage and Homosexuality

Mar 5, 2015 9:00 am

5 key takeaways about local news media ‘ecosystems’

At a time of tumultuous change for the media, what is the role of local news in U.S. communities?

Daily Paper is Prime Source of Local NewsToday, the Pew Research Center released a new report examining the local news environment in three U.S. metropolitan areas of different population size and demographic makeup: Denver, Macon, Ga., and Sioux City, Iowa. Here are five key takeaways based on the report, which incorporates data from surveys, analysis of media content, an audit of local news providers and social media analysis.

1Local news matters to local residents. About nine-in-ten residents in each city said they followed news about their local area at least somewhat closely, while about eight-in-ten said the same about neighborhood news. This is true in Denver, where researchers found 143 sources of news and information, but it’s also true in Macon, with 24 sources, and Sioux City, with 31 sources.

Read More

Topics: News Content Analysis, News Media Sectors, News Sources, Social Media

Mar 5, 2015 7:00 am

50 years ago: Mixed views about civil rights but support for Selma demonstrators

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Selma to Montgomery March
Martin Luther King Jr. arrives in Montgomery, Ala., on March 25, 1965, at the culmination of the Selma to Montgomery march. With him are (from left) Ralph Bunche, Coretta Scott King, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Hosea Williams. (Photo by Morton Broffman/Getty Images)

When civil rights activists led a bloody protest march in Selma, Ala., on March 7, 1965, that is credited with helping to assure passage of the Voting Rights Act that year, civil rights was a top issue for the American public, but opinions about it were very mixed. Even so, America’s verdict on Selma was clear. In all, the protesters staged three marches that month, and polling showed the public clearly siding with the demonstrators, not with the state of Alabama.

A nationwide Gallup poll in February 1965 found 26% of Americans citing civil rights as a problem facing the nation, second only to the expanding war in Vietnam (cited by 29%). There was broad-based support for the war at this early stage in its history, but views about civil rights and integration were clearly mixed. Read More

Topics: African Americans, Race and Ethnicity, Voter Demographics

Mar 5, 2015 12:01 am

Q/A: How Pew Research analyzed local media ‘ecosystems’

Amy Mitchell, Director of Journalism Research, Pew Research Center

As digital technology becomes an increasingly common part of Americans’ lives, the news media is in a time of transition. Though much has been written on how this transition impacts national media outlets, its impact on local news – where most Americans get their news about government and politics – is far less commonly studied.

Pew Research Center’s new report on local news in a digital age looks at both the organizations providing the news and the residents consuming it. To do so, we focused on three cities of varying size and demographics – Denver, Macon, Ga., and Sioux City, Iowa – and analyzed the local news environment in each. We conducted a representative survey of the residents in each city, and our researchers performed an “audit” of the local news ecosystem, identifying every possible source of news and information in the community, from daily newspapers to government officials to community listservs. For each source that put out original local content at least once a week, we analyzed the local information they generated over five days, whether in legacy forms (such as print or broadcast) or online. (For complete details, see the report’s methodology section.)

Amy Mitchell, the center’s director of journalism research, discussed how we conducted this unique research. Read More

Topics: News Content Analysis, News Media Sectors, News Sources, Research Methodology

Mar 4, 2015 7:00 am

Opinions on Obamacare remain divided along party lines as Supreme Court hears new challenge

Views of Health Care Law, 2010-2015After clearing a major legal hurdle with the Supreme Court three years ago, the Affordable Care Act faces another high court battle this week that could deal a major blow to the law. This time, the question is whether four words – “established by the state” – are enough to invalidate a vital part of the health care law.

About five years after President Barack Obama’s signature health care law passed, more than 11 million Americans have signed up for health insurance through the program. And public opinion has remained steady: A greater share disapproves (53%) than approves (45%) of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Feb. 18-22. As was the case even before the original bill came up for a vote in Congress, public opinion regarding the program continues to fall along party lines, with nearly nine-in-ten Republicans (87%) against the 2010 health care law and roughly eight-in-ten Democrats (78%) in support of it. Independents disapprove of the ACA by a margin of 58%-39%. Read More

Topics: Barack Obama, Health Care, U.S. Political Parties

Mar 3, 2015 1:00 pm

Opinions on expanding access to experimental drugs differ by race, income

A majority of Americans support greater access to experimental drugs before clinical trials have been completed, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. But there are notable differences in opinion on this issue by income, education and race.

Generally, adults from higher-income households and college degree earners are more likely than others to favor greater availability of investigative medical treatments. And, when it comes to different racial groups, African-Americans are significantly less supportive of the idea than whites and Hispanics.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced a more streamlined process for doctors to obtain experimental drugs for seriously ill patients. The proposed changes are expected to speed up the application process and get investigative treatments to patients more quickly and efficiently.

The new FDA guidelines come after five states – Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan and Missouri – passed legislation in 2014 that would give terminally ill patients greater access to medical treatments that have not been fully evaluated by the FDA. At least 25 other states have filed similar “right to try” laws in the past year, and just last week, Virginia lawmakers unanimously passed legislation seeking to expand patients’ access to investigative experimental drugs. Read More

Topics: Health Care, Income, Race and Ethnicity, Science and Innovation

Mar 3, 2015 7:00 am

Religious restrictions among the world’s most populous countries

Changes in Restrictions on ReligionLevels of religious restrictions and hostilities among the world’s 25 most populous countries — where more than 5 billion people live — vary tremendously, from some of the lowest in the world (South Africa) to among the very highest (Indonesia).

Burma (Myanmar), Egypt, Pakistan and Russia also had some of the highest levels of religious restrictions, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center, using 2013 data (the most recent year analyzed). In these countries, both the government and society at large impose numerous limits on religious beliefs and practices.

In Burma, for example, Buddhist residents in Kyawpadaung Township tried to prevent Muslims from living in the area, displaying signs that said the town had been “purified” of Muslims. And in Pakistan, the government continued to enforce laws designed to marginalize the minority Ahmadiyya community, including laws that make it difficult for members of the community to vote or obtain passports and other legal documents if they do not renounce their faith. Ahmadis see themselves as a Muslim sect, but many Pakistanis do not view them as Muslims. Read More

Topics: Restrictions on Religion

Mar 2, 2015 12:42 pm

Ahead of redistricting, Democrats seek to reverse statehouse declines

Partisan Composition of State Legislatures

Late last month, a Democratic National Committee “victory task force” released its preliminary report on what the party needs to do to avoid a repeat of the pasting it received in November’s midterms. One of its main recommendations: The party needs to take control of more state legislatures in time for the redistricting that will follow the 2020 census.

Though they tend not to get much attention from Beltway insiders, state legislatures are key players in redrawing congressional-district boundaries. In most states, it’s the state legislature that takes the lead role in drawing new district maps, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. (Commissions do this job in 13 states and have advisory or backup roles in seven others, although the Supreme Court is currently weighing the legality of the commissions’ task.) Given the inherently political nature of redistricting, which party controls the legislature can be crucial to a state’s final maps and thus, control of Congress.

Read More

Topics: State and Local Government, U.S. Political Parties

Feb 27, 2015 4:04 pm

63% of Republican Millennials favor marijuana legalization

Support for legalizing marijuana has rapidly outpaced opposition, with a slim majority (52%) favoring its legal use as of October 2014. That trend is driven largely by the Millennial generation, who support marijuana at much higher rates than their elders.

Support for Marijuana Largely a Generational StoryBut when looking more closely at the opinions of young and old, the age gap is starkest among Republicans and those who lean Republican – a strikingly similar trend to what we’ve seen within the party when it comes to same-sex marriage.

Six-in-ten (63%) GOP Millennials say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 35% say it should be illegal, according to our February 2014 survey. That level of support is higher than among Republican Generation Xers (47%) and Baby Boomers (38%), and much higher than among GOP members of the Silent generation (17%). (When we asked the question again in October, overall opinion was only slightly changed.) Read More

Topics: Drugs, Generations and Age, Millennials, Political Party Affiliation

Feb 27, 2015 1:45 pm

Hispanics more likely than whites to say global warming is caused by humans

Hispanics are significantly more likely than whites to say the Earth is warming because of human activities and that the U.S. should do whatever it takes to protect the environment, a new Pew Research Center analysis finds.

Hispanics More Likely than Whites to Say Humans Have Warmed the PlanetOur analysis finds that Hispanics, who make up an increasing share of the U.S. voting population in presidential elections, stand out when it comes to their views of the environment. Recent surveys from other organizations have had similar results. Democrats, the party most Hispanics identify with, have been pushing for more government action on issues such as climate change.

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Topics: Energy and Environment, Hispanic/Latino Demographics