Nov 23, 2015 7:00 am

6 key takeaways about how Americans view their government

Our fall 2015 survey found widespread discontent with the federal government, including deep distrust in government and considerable cynicism about politics and elected officials alike. But despite these negative assessments, majorities believe government does a good job on many issues and want it to have a major role on a wide range of policy areas.

Here are six key takeaways from the report:

1The public’s trust in government remains at historic lows. Today, just 19% say they trust the federal government to do what is right always or most of the time, which is little changed from recent years. Fewer than three-in-ten Americans have expressed trust in government in every major national poll conducted since July 2007 – the longest period of low trust in government seen in more than 50 years.

While Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they trust the government, trust remains low across partisan lines: Just 11% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they trust the government, compared with 26% of Democrats and Democratic leaners. (For more on the public’s trust in government, see this interactive.)

2As in the past, the public’s feelings about government run more toward frustration than anger. Currently, 57% are frustrated with the federal government; 22% are angry, while 18% are basically content.

Far more Republicans (32%) than Democrats (12%) say they are angry with the government. But higher shares in both parties expressed anger toward government in October 2013, during the partial government shutdown.

While anger at government has been higher among Republicans than Democrats during Barack Obama’s administration, the situation was reversed during George W. Bush’s presidency: In October 2006, 29% of Democrats said they were angry with government, compared with just 9% of Republicans. Read More

Topics: Trust in Government

Nov 20, 2015 2:03 pm

40% of Millennials OK with limiting speech offensive to minorities

American Millennials are far more likely than older generations to say the government should be able to prevent people from saying offensive statements about minority groups, according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data on free speech and media across the globe.

U.S. Millennials More Likely to Support Censoring Offensive Statements About MinoritiesWe asked whether people believe that citizens should be able to make public statements that are offensive to minority groups, or whether the government should be able to prevent people from saying these things. Four-in-ten Millennials say the government should be able to prevent people publicly making statements that are offensive to minority groups, while 58% said such speech is OK.

Even though a larger share of Millennials favor allowing offensive speech against minorities, the 40% who oppose it is striking given that only around a quarter of Gen Xers (27%) and Boomers (24%) and roughly one-in-ten Silents (12%) say the government should be able to prevent such speech. Read More

Topics: Free Speech, Generations and Age

Nov 20, 2015 11:15 am

What we know about illegal immigration from Mexico

Illegal immigration remains a hotly contested issue as the 2016 presidential campaigns get underway. While Democrats have largely supported a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants and backed President Barack Obama’s programs to shield from deportation young people brought to the U.S. as children illegally, Republicans have largely opposed them.

Mexican Unauthorized Immigrant Population Declines Since 2007 PeakMore recently, debate about illegal immigration has focused on those from Mexico, the largest single group of immigrants in the United States. Pew Research Center tracks the origins of unauthorized immigrants, their participation in the labor force and where in the U.S. they are settling.

Here’s what we know about illegal immigration to the U.S. from Mexico:

1The number of Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. illegally has declined. In 2014, 5.6 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico lived in the U.S., down by about 1 million since 2007. Despite the drop, Mexicans still make up about half (49% in 2014) of unauthorized immigrants. At the same time, unauthorized immigration overall has leveled off in recent years. Read More

Topics: Immigration, Immigration Trends, Mexico, Unauthorized Immigration

Nov 20, 2015 9:45 am

Without one-child policy, China still might not see baby boom, gender balance

Legacy of One-Child Policy Is LikelyThe Chinese government recently announced it would further relax its decades-old one-child policy, but this shift might not dramatically affect the birth rate and the gender imbalance in China – at least not in the near term.

Why? Policy isn’t the only factor influencing a country’s demographic changes. China’s rapid economic development, its urbanization and its culture will continue to play a role in family size and the population’s gender makeup.

China’s fertility rate certainly declined since the advent of the one-child policy in 1980. But that decline seems to be a continuation of a trend that was already well underway prior to the policy’s official implementation. The country’s total fertility rate stood at almost six births per woman in the 1960s, but by 1980, it had already fallen below three births per woman. As of 2013, the typical Chinese woman was expected to have about 1.6 children in her lifetime.

Fertility rates typically fall as countries become more urbanized and more economically developed, and these factors likely explain much of the decline in the Chinese birthrate. Indeed, across Asia, even countries without a one-child policy have experienced a rapid decline in fertility rates in recent decades. Read More

Topics: Birth Rate and Fertility, China, Gender

Nov 19, 2015 4:00 pm

5 facts about illegal immigration in the U.S.

The number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. has stabilized in recent years after decades of rapid growth. But there have been shifts in the states where unauthorized immigrants live and the countries where they were born.

President Obama’s executive action on immigration, announced Nov. 20, 2014, would among other things expand deportation relief to almost half the unauthorized immigrant population, though this part of the program is on hold due to a lawsuit to stop the move. While executive actions on immigration have a long history, Obama’s recent action was the most significant protection from deportation offered to unauthorized immigrants since 1986, when Congress passed a law that allowed 2.7 million unauthorized immigrants to obtain a green card.

Here are five facts about the unauthorized immigrant population in the U.S. Read More

Topics: Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Immigration, Unauthorized Immigration

Nov 19, 2015 12:55 pm

U.S. public seldom has welcomed refugees into country

Over the Decades, American Public Generally Hasn't Welcomed Refugees

Last week’s Islamic State attacks in Paris have heightened concerns about possible security threats posed by the hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees pouring into Europe. And Europeans aren’t the only ones concerned: Opposition is building in the U.S. to the Obama administration’s plans to admit up to 10,000 refugees from Syria’s civil war.

A new Bloomberg Politics poll found that 53% of Americans don’t want to accept any Syrian refugees at all; 11% more would accept only Christian refugees from Syria. More than two dozen governors, most of them Republicans, have said they’ll oppose Syrian refugees being resettled in their states. And on Thursday the House of Representatives passed a bill blocking the admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees unless they pass strict background checks.

The U.S. cap on refugee admissions was raised to 85,000 this fiscal year from 70,000 in fiscal 2015, largely to accommodate the planned increase in Syrian refugees and, more broadly, help deal with the influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants from that country, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere into Europe. In a Pew Research Center survey taken in September, Americans narrowly approved of that policy shift (51% to 45%), though it’s unknown whether public opinion has shifted after the Paris attacks. Read More

Topics: Europe, Immigration Attitudes, Middle East and North Africa, Migration, Muslims and Islam, Religious Extremism

Nov 19, 2015 7:00 am

Building outpaces population growth in many of China’s urban areas

Construction in Beijing, China
Pedestrians walk past a construction site in Beijing. Photo credit: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images

Millions of people across the East Asia Pacific are moving to cities, and nowhere more so than in China, where the urban population expanded by 131 million from 2000 to 2010, according to research from the World Bank.

But unlike other nations in the region, many of China’s urban areas have become less crowded (losing population density) in that time period, spurred by government policies that encourage rapid building. In the most unique cases, this has led to the creation of so-called “ghost cities,” where new urban infrastructure sits idle, waiting for the first inhabitants to arrive.

The extent of urban building in China can be studied in innovative ways, as seen in the World Bank report, which dispenses with traditional, administrative approaches to calculating urban populations and instead uses satellite imagery and census micro-data to measure urban density. The study defines urban areas as contiguous lands with 50% or more of the area covered by built-up infrastructures such as roads and buildings, and whose overall population was 100,000 or more in 2010.  Read More

Topics: Asia and the Pacific, China, Demographics, Migration, Population Geography

Nov 18, 2015 2:54 pm

5 facts about family caregivers

Woman reading to mother at table
Photo credit: Shestock/Getty Images

As American society gets grayer, families are taking the lead role in providing care for aging adults. Most American adults say a family member is caring for their aging parent who needs help handling their affairs or caring for themselves. And if they’re not already helping out a parent, most expect to do so someday.

Here are five facts about caregivers of older Americans for National Family Caregivers Month: Read More

Topics: Family and Relationships, Family Roles, Health, Health Care

Nov 18, 2015 8:55 am

Where the world sees limits to free speech

In principle, most people around the world, and especially in the United States, support freedom of expression. But there is a fine line between general support for freedom of speech and support for specific forms of expression.

Views of Free Expression Worldwide

A new survey of people in 38 countries finds that for many provocative forms of speech, such as sexually explicit statements or calls for violent protests, most people draw a line between protected speech and speech that goes too far. And compared with the rest of the world, Americans generally are more accepting of free speech of any kind.

Read More

Topics: Democracy, International Governments and Institutions, Internet Activities

Nov 17, 2015 4:17 pm

In nations with significant Muslim populations, much disdain for ISIS

Views of ISIS Overwhelmingly NegativeRecent attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have once again brought terrorism and Islamic extremism to the forefront of international relations. According to newly released data that the Pew Research Center collected in 11 countries with significant Muslim populations, people from Nigeria to Jordan to Indonesia overwhelmingly expressed negative views of ISIS.

One exception was Pakistan, where a majority offered no definite opinion of ISIS. The nationally representative surveys were conducted as part of the Pew Research Center’s annual global poll in April and May this year.

In no country surveyed did more than 15% of the population show favorable attitudes toward Islamic State. And in those countries with mixed religious and ethnic populations, negative views of ISIS cut across these lines.

In Lebanon, a victim of one of the most recent attacks, almost every person surveyed who gave an opinion had an unfavorable view of ISIS, including 99% with a very unfavorable opinion. Distaste toward ISIS was shared by Lebanese Sunni Muslims (98% unfavorable) and 100% of Shia Muslims and Lebanese Christians.

Israelis (97%) and Jordanians (94%) were also strongly opposed to ISIS as of spring 2015, including 91% of Israeli Arabs. And 84% in the Palestinian territories had a negative view of ISIS, both in the Gaza Strip (92%) and the West Bank (79%).  Read More

Topics: Europe, Middle East and North Africa, Muslims and Islam, Religious Extremism, Terrorism