Numerous studies have shown that people who are religious are happier in life. Now, a new study has found those who believe in God with no doubts are more likely to strongly disagree with the idea that life does not have meaning.
Stephen Cranney of the Population Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania recently conducted the first large scale study that empirically tests the association between belief in God and feeling a sense of purpose in life. Read More →
Category: Social Studies
About half of Americans believe it is essential for the president and Congress to enact major immigration legislation this year.
Four of the issues that President Obama mentioned prominently in his State of the Union address included dealing with the deficit, overhauling immigration policy, pushing through major gun legislation and tackling climate change.
Earlier this year, there was significant movement on immigration, with the Senate voting 68-to-32 in June to pass a comprehensive bill that would provide a path to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. illegally and additional spending to tighten the nation’s borders. The bill always faced tough sledding in the Republican-controlled House, but now, with the challenge of Syria on the front-burner as well as a looming fight over the debt ceiling and other budget issues, further action may be pushed back, if it happens at all.
Category: Daily Number
On March 21, 2006, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey (@jack) sent the first Tweet. Since then, Twitter has amassed more than 200 million active users who create more than 400 million Tweets each day, according to Twitter.
Now, after seven years of growth, Twitter said yesterday that it has submitted preliminary paperwork for an initial public offering, an announcement that recalled another major public offering by a top company in the social media realm—that of Facebook, in May 2012.
It was five years ago this month when the financial crisis, which had been steadily worsening for months, reached critical mass and exploded with a force that, for a while, threatened to take down the entire global economy. But a lot has happened since then, and who can remember all the details? Was it Bear Stearns or Lehman Brothers that collapsed first? Wasn’t TARP enacted under President Obama? And what did TARP stand for anyway?
The Treasury Department has distilled the complex series of corporate and governmental actions and responses, from late 2007 through 2010, in this nifty chart. It’s part of a PowerPoint deck Treasury created to show how much progress has been made in the past five years. (For a thorough examination of the crisis and its causes, check out the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission’s 2011 report.)
But “progress,” like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, and while Treasury’s slideshow packs a lot of information into a fairly small space, it rather understandably tends to put the government’s actions in the best light. For a useful annotation and corrective, check out this post by Washington Post financial reporter Neil Irwin.
And even though the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, given the recovery’s slow pace and uneven impacts it should come as no surprise that, as the Pew Research Center reported Thursday, nearly two-thirds (63%) of Americans say the nation’s economic system is no more secure today than it was before the crash.
Category: Chart of the Week
Topics: Economic Recession
This Sunday is “National Back to Church Sunday,” a coordinated effort by more than 20,000 churches of various Christian denominations to reach out to people who rarely attend worship services.
The percentage of Americans who say they “seldom” or “never” attend religious services (aside from weddings and funerals) has risen modestly in the past decade. Roughly three-in-ten U.S. adults (29%) now say they seldom or never attend worship services, up from 25% in 2003, according to aggregated data from Pew Research Center surveys. The share of people who say they attend services at least once a week has remained relatively steady; 37% say they attend at least weekly today, compared with 39% a decade ago.
The federal debt ceiling is nearly $16.7 trillion.
With the Syrian crisis at least temporarily off the federal government’s front burner, Congress is turning its attention back to fiscal issues — most critically, the looming fight over raising the ceiling on federal debt. In Congress, the issue now has become entangled with a stopgap spending measure aimed at averting an Oct. 1 government shutdown, Republican efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act, proposed changes to Social Security and other “entitlement” programs, and a bipartisan effort at overhauling the tax code.
As of the end of August, according to the Treasury Department, government debt was about $25 million shy of the official debt limit of $16,699,421,095,673.60. The government will run out of fiscal wiggle room by mid-October, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has warned, meaning that without a change in the law it won’t be able to issue any more debt to keep itself running.
About 28% of the total debt ($4.75 trillion as of the end of August) is held by the Social Security and Medicare trust funds and other governmental accounts; the rest (about $11.95 trillion) is held by the public in the form of various sorts of Treasury securities.
The intra-governmental share of the debt has risen steadily since 1982, as Social Security took in more in payroll taxes than it paid out in benefits and invested the surplus in Treasury bonds. The publicly held portion of the debt is affected by annual budget deficits or surpluses; that portion shrank slightly during the four fiscal years (1998-2001) that the government ran surpluses, but has more than tripled since then, from $3.3 trillion to $11.95 trillion.
Beyond the raw dollar figures, an arguably more useful way to look at the national debt is as a percentage of gross domestic product. Based on the latest GDP estimate the debt currently stands at just over 100% of gross domestic product, its highest level since just after World War II. (It was 55.6% of GDP at the end of fiscal 2001, according to a useful primer prepared by the Congressional Research Service.) That gives the United States one of the higher debt-to-GDP ratios among the 30 developed economies tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, though not the highest: That title goes to Japan, whose public debt is more than twice its GDP.
A Pew Research Center survey in May gave a hint at the difficult negotiations that likely lie ahead. Asked whether it was more important to take steps to reduce the national debt or keep Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are, 53% of respondents chose Social Security and Medicare, while just 36% chose the debt. (A similarly worded question on the deficit, rather than the debt, yielded almost identical results.)
Category: Daily Number
Americans take a lot of flak — some of it deserved — for their misperceptions about public policy, global affairs and other matters outside the average person’s everyday experience. But when it comes to assessing the U.S. economy’s recovery from the Great Recession, their perceptions are pretty much on the mark.
Today’s Pew Research Center report on the U.S. economy, five years after the financial sector nearly collapsed and took the rest of the country with it, asked Americans how much four key metrics have or have not recovered since the recession. Here’s what they said, along with a check of the data:
The stock market was clearly seen as having benefited the most from the recovery: 21% of people said stocks have fully recovered and 53% said they’ve partially recovered. In fact, the benchmark S&P 500 index stands about 35% higher than it did five years ago, and has been consistently above its pre-crash high since the spring. However, as a Pew Research report from April noted, the runup in stocks mainly benefits the already rich: While 59% of households with a net worth of at least $500,000 directly own stocks or mutual fund shares, only 13% of lower net worth households do; wealthier households also are much more likely to own 401(k)-type retirement accounts.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, as the Obama administration considers a proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin for the eventual disarmament of Syria. Two Pew Research Center polls conducted in 2012 suggest the American public is skeptical about the nation at the center of the latest developments in the Syria situation.
The average gap between the proportion of men and women who use social media
For many Americans, posting a status update or commenting on a photo has become a ubiquitous part of their daily routine. It is easy to forget just how quickly social media usage has grown. Five years ago, just 29% of online adults used social networking sites. Today, that figure has more than doubled to 72%.
Category: Daily Number
A recall campaign in Colorado led by gun-control opponents succeeded Tuesday in ousting two Democratic state senators — one of them the president of the state Senate. The hard-fought election, which attracted money and attention from across the country, became a symbol of the nation’s continuing divisions over gun control versus Second Amendment rights.
Those divisions are exceptionally close, and have been since 2009, according to a series of surveys by the Pew Research Center. For many years beforehand, clear majorities of Americans had said it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect the rights of gun owners. But the gap between those two positions narrowed sharply in 2009 and has largely remained that way: In the 12 times we’ve asked the question since April of that year, only twice (in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.) has the difference between the gun-rights and gun-control positions exceeded five percentage points. In the most recent survey, from May, 50% said gun control was more important and 48% said protecting gun rights was. Read More →
Topics: Gun Control