On Saturday evening, many American children will encounter costumed ghosts as they roam the streets in search of candy and other treats on Halloween. Before bedtime, to avoid nightmares, some parents may try to reassure their kids that ghosts are not real.
But not all of those parents may buy their own reassurances: Nearly one-in-five U.S. adults (18%) say they’ve seen or been in the presence of a ghost, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center survey. An even greater share – 29% – say they have felt in touch with someone who has already died.
Claude Fischer, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, explored Americans’ persisting beliefs in some supernatural phenomena in a 2013 blog post.
“As we approach Halloween, note that most American adults in the 21st Century say that they believe in life after death and in the devil,” Fischer wrote, citing data from Gallup and other sources. “Over one-third say that they believe in the spirits of the dead coming back; about that many also say they believe in haunted houses.”
Despite the influence of modern secularism and science, he observed, “the magic has not totally gone.”
Does going to church help keep ghosts away? It’s impossible to say, but people who often go to worship services appear to be less likely to say they see ghosts. Just 11% of those who attend religious services at least weekly say they’ve been in the presence of a ghost, while 23% of those who attend services less frequently say they have seen a ghost, the Pew Research Center survey found.
Topics: Religion and Society
Next month, representatives of nearly 200 countries will meet in Paris to try to reach a universal, binding agreement to address global climate change. Two of the biggest obstacles to such an agreement have been the fact that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases vary widely from country to country, and that many leaders fear limiting emissions could impede economic growth, particularly for newly industrializing countries trying to lift people out of poverty.
One metric that ties both of those notions together is energy intensity – the total energy used by a country per unit of gross domestic product (energy consumption being closely related to carbon emissions). Though not without its drawbacks and criticisms, energy intensity is useful as a sort of Energy Star rating for an entire economy: All else being equal, you’d probably prefer to use less energy to generate a given amount of economic output.
While energy intensity can be calculated several ways, for simplicity we use the version adopted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA): the total energy used by a country in a year (in British thermal units, or Btu) divided by the country’s GDP for that year (in constant 2005 U.S. dollars on a purchasing-power parity basis, so the data are comparable across time and national borders). The resulting figure represents how many Btu the country used per dollar of GDP.
Between 1993 and 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, worldwide energy intensity fell 18.7%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from nearly 200 nations and territories compiled by the EIA; most nations (112) reduced their energy intensities over that time period. Read More →
What makes a good life? Usually this question is in the domain of priests, philosophers and metaphysicians, but the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a think tank consisting of 34 mostly rich countries, sought to find the answers with data.
The organization’s Better Life Index looks at 23 indicators of current well-being across 11 domains, from how much people earn and the cost of housing, to life expectancy, and even to how much time off people get from work. Most of the indicators are culled from OECD’s own research based on country-level government data, but they also include public opinion surveys – all of which could be combined to form scores on a “well-being” scale.
Overall, a Pew Research Center analysis of the data finds that life is good in most of these countries – almost all fall within the organization’s average range. But well-being is notably better for people in Norway and the U.S. than it is for people in Turkey and Mexico.
And there’s a lot of nuance in between. For example, if you think well-being is defined by financial wealth and household income, the U.S. is the place for you. But if you prefer time off from work, France is the ideal place, by far, to put down roots. On the other hand, if you are trying to avoid victimization and dying from assault, Mexico is not your ideal destination.
The reports’ authors looked at the essential ingredients that shape people’s well-being in these 34 nations. To standardize different measures, OECD converted each indicator to a “z score” that represents standard deviations above or below the 34-nation average. The OECD average is represented by a z score of 0; scores closer to 1 and above represent higher well-being and those closer to -1 and below indicate lower well-being. We analyzed the data by averaging the z scores across all 23 indicators to see how the countries ranked. For this average, each indicator received equal weight. Read More →
Republicans differ sharply from Democrats in their views on the state of the economy, the tax system, government aid to the poor and other issues. But Republicans also have divisions within their own ranks.
Here is a profile of Republicans’ views of the economy and economic policy, based on our surveys:
As a whole, Republicans are more bearish about the national economy than Democrats. Just 16% of Republicans rated the economy as excellent or good in our May survey, compared with 36% of Democrats. And Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the economy isn’t recovering. One-in-three Republicans (33%) said the economy wasn’t recovering at all, compared with 7% of Democrats. In a January survey, more Republicans (63%) than Democrats (47%) said they were falling behind financially.
When asked in July, Americans rated the parties about equally when it came to which would better handle the economy.
The federal budget deficit remains a top issue for Republicans. About eight-in-ten Republicans (78%) said in September that the budget would be “very important” to their vote in 2016, compared with 58% of Democrats.
The Vatican synod on the family concluded over the weekend – with somewhat inconclusive results that were open to multiple interpretations.
While there were many topics of conversation – including homosexuality, cohabitation and contraception – much of the focus fell on Catholics who have been divorced and remarried without an annulment, and the debate over whether the church would allow them to receive Communion. The synod’s final document, with each paragraph approved by at least two-thirds of the 265 voting bishops in attendance, did not take a clear stance on the issue, but some observers expect Pope Francis may leave it up to local parishes.
Most U.S. Catholics (62%) think the church should allow Catholics who have been divorced and remarried without an annulment to receive Communion, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. And only about a third of American Catholics (35%) say they personally think getting remarried after a divorce without an annulment is sinful, compared with half (49%) who say it is not a sin. Only 21% of Catholics say simply getting a divorce is sinful, while 61% say it is not. Read More →
A spate of arsons this month at six predominately black churches in the St. Louis area has raised concerns that these incidents could be racially motivated. But they are by no means the first arsons at places of worship this year.
As of July 14, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had ruled 29 of 79 fires at houses of worship in 2015 to be arson, although some investigations were ongoing.
Indeed, about half of all the fires at houses of worship in the past 20 years were intentionally set, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the ATF. Of the 4,705 reported fire incidents at houses of worship between 1996 and 2015, 2,378, or 51%, had been ruled intentional as of July. Read More →
From the heresy trial of Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei four centuries ago to the uproar over Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, religion and science have often been seen as being in conflict. But are religious faith and the scientific enterprise really at odds with each other?
A new Pew Research Center survey examines this question through the lens of American public opinion and across a range of scientific topics. We found that a majority of Americans (59%) say that science is often in conflict with religion, with only 38% saying the two areas are mostly compatible. Here are five key findings from the report:
1The least religiously observant Americans are most likely to perceive conflict between religion and science. Some 73% of adults who seldom or never attend religious services say science and religion are often in conflict, while half of adults who attend religious services at least weekly say the same.
2Most American adults (68%) say there is no conflict between their personal religious beliefs and science. For the 30% who do see a conflict, the most common source of disagreement involves beliefs about evolution and the creation of the universe. Read More →
Category: 5 Facts
Throughout this year, when the several dozen members of the House Freedom Caucus clashed repeatedly with the House GOP leadership, they defended themselves by saying they were only doing what their voters back home wanted.
“We’re going to focus on what we believe middle-class voters sent us here to do,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio told National Review Online shortly after he and eight colleagues announced the Republican group’s formation. Eight months later, in its statement endorsing Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida for speaker, the Freedom Caucus declared, “It is clear that our constituents will simply not accept a continuation of the status quo, and that the viability of the Republican Party depends on whether we start listening to our voters and fighting to keep our promises.”
Clearly some individual constituents approve of the Freedom Caucus’ hard-line stance. But a new Pew Research Center survey analysis finds that the attitudes of Republicans living in Freedom Caucus members’ districts look very similar to those in other Republican-represented districts, and that the overall demographics of Freedom Caucus districts and other GOP-held districts are similar as well.
But the increased spotlight on guns does not reflect the overall gun violence trend in the country. Although most Americans think the number of gun crimes has risen, the U.S. gun homicide rate has actually stabilized somewhat in recent years, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of death certificate data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Between 1993 and 2000, the gun homicide rate dropped by nearly half, from 7.0 homicides to 3.8 homicides per 100,000 people. Since then, the gun homicide rate has remained relatively flat. From 2009 to 2014, the most recent year data are available, the number of gun homicides has hovered around 11,000 and 12,000 per year.
By contrast, a significantly higher – and growing – number of gun deaths were by suicide than by homicide, and this has been true throughout the past two decades. For example, while the gun suicide rate has declined overall since 1993, in recent years it has risen, from 6.3 per 100,000 people in 2010 to 6.7 in 2014.
The nation’s overall gun death rate has declined 31% since 1993. This total includes homicides and suicides, in addition to a smaller number of fatal police shootings, accidental shooting deaths and those of undetermined intent. For example, in 2014 there were 464 fatal police shootings, up from 333 in 2009. (Government data on fatal police shootings are also collected and reported by the FBI, though the agency acknowledges there are discrepancies between federal and local law enforcement counts.) Read More →
Topics: Gun Control
Amid all the coverage of House Republicans’ unruly efforts to select a speaker who can command broad support from their fractious ranks, one name keeps coming up: the House Freedom Caucus. But what, exactly, is the House Freedom Caucus?
Pew Research Center has confirmed the identities of 36 Freedom Caucus members through representatives’ public statements, their comments to the media or their offices’ direct responses. A handful of other House members who reportedly belong to the group could not be confirmed. (The communications director for Rep. Darrell Issa of California, for example, said he could neither confirm nor deny Issa’s membership in the caucus.)
Ideologically speaking, they’re among the most conservative of House Republicans, though not all are on the rightmost end of the spectrum.
To quantify this, we used a dataset called DW-NOMINATE, first developed by political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal in the early 1980s and refined and updated since. In simplified form, DW-NOMINATE assigns each representative a score ranging from -1 (most liberal) to +1 (most conservative) based on roll-call votes. Read More →
Category: Sortable Table