Dec 29, 2015 2:33 pm

Congress’ productivity improves somewhat in 2015

Congressional ProductivityFollowing two remarkably unproductive years, Congress picked up the pace in 2015. More laws were enacted this year than in the first year of any two-year congressional term since 2009, and more substantive laws were enacted than in any first-session year since 2007.

As of Dec. 29, Congress has passed 113 measures that have been signed into law, compared with 72 in 2013 and 81 in 2011, according to the Library of Congress’ THOMAS database. (A few more still await President Obama’s signature.) Of that total, we deemed 87 to be “substantive” by our deliberately generous criteria – that is, any legislation other than renaming buildings, awarding medals, commemorating historic events and other purely ceremonial actions. By contrast, the previous two Congresses managed to pass just 63 (in 2011) and 61 (in 2013) substantive laws, respectively.

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Topics: Congress

Dec 28, 2015 11:59 am

Lack of broadband can be a key obstacle, especially for job seekers

Non-broadband adopters fact many challenges finding and applying for jobs onlinePeople without broadband at home can face substantial challenges navigating key life events, with difficulties looking for work or applying for a job among the most prominent. Despite a number of state and federal initiatives promoting increased broadband adoption, a significant share of U.S. adults (33%) say that they still do not subscribe to high-speed internet service.

Pew Research Center surveys have found that Americans view trouble in finding work or advancing one’s career as the most significant impediment facing those without broadband. Some 52% of Americans believe that those without broadband service at home are at a “major disadvantage” when it comes to finding out about job opportunities or gaining new career skills.

Non-broadband adopters can also face substantial challenges engaging in a number of digital job-seeking activities. For instance, 37% of non-broadband adopters indicate that it would not be easy for them to create a professional resume if they needed to do so; 30% would find it difficult to contact an employer via email, or fill out an online job application; and 27% would have a hard time finding online lists of available jobs in their area.

In each case, those with broadband access at home express a much greater comfort level accomplishing these tasks. These gaps are especially notable considering online employment resources now rival personal and professional networks as a top source of job information for Americans looking for work.

Smartphone only users rely heavily on phones for advanced job seeking tasksWhile cost is the primary barrier facing non-broadband adopters, some also say they are satisfied with the online access provided by their smartphones — 13% of Americans are now “smartphone only” (meaning they have a smartphone but lack traditional broadband service at home). And nearly one-third of these “smartphone only” users say that the main reason they don’t have broadband at home is because their smartphone can do everything they wish to do online.

Yet those who rely on mobile devices for online access face job-seeking challenges, ranging from data caps on a smartphone plan to attempting to craft a resume or apply for a job on a device that was not built for extensive text entry. One-quarter of “smartphone only” users have used a smartphone to fill out a job application online, and 13% have used a smartphone to create a resume or cover letter.

These disparities in access could become a self-perpetuating cycle for financially struggling Americans. If this group continues to give up (or not purchase) broadband service for economic reasons, they may run the risk of losing out on potential future employment opportunities simply because they don’t have access to the appropriate tools for the task.

Topics: Broadband, Internet Activities, Technology Adoption, Work and Employment

Dec 23, 2015 7:00 am

Americans are in the middle of the pack globally when it comes to importance of religion

U.S. is in the middle of pack when it comes to importance of religion in people's livesMore than half of Americans (53%) now say religion is very important in their lives, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. While this figure has declined somewhat in recent years – down from 56% in 2007 – Americans remain in the middle of the pack in terms of importance of religion when compared with people around the world.

In fact, the share of Americans who say religion is very important is close to the global median of respondents who say this in a separate survey.

By this measure, Americans place less importance on religion in their lives than do people in a number of countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. For example, nearly universal shares of Ethiopians (98%), Senegalese (97%) and Indonesians (95%) say religion is very important, as do eight-in-ten or more Nigerians (88%), Filipinos (87%) and Indians (80%).

Countries where religion is broadly seen as important have a variety of religious makeups, ranging from predominantly Christian nations like the Philippines, to mostly Muslim countries like Indonesia, to Hindu-majority India and even to some religiously mixed countries like Nigeria.

Meanwhile, religion is considerably more important to Americans than to residents of many other Western and European countries, as well as other advanced economy nations, such as Japan.

Generally, poorer nations tend to be religious; wealthy less so, except for U.S.

Overall, people in wealthier nations tend to place less importance on religion than those in poorer nations. However, the United States – the wealthiest nation included in the 2015 global survey based on gross domestic product per capita – is a notable exception to this trend. Americans are much more likely than their counterparts in other economically advanced nations to say religion is very important. About twice as many or more Americans say religion is very important in their lives compared with the share of people who say this in Australia (18%), Germany (21%) and Canada (27%), the next three wealthiest countries included in our survey.

The U.S. — which, like much of Europe, has been experiencing a rise in the share of people who say they have no religion — is also near the middle when it comes to the share of people who say religion is “not too” or “not at all” important in their lives. About one-in-five Americans (22%) say this, compared with a global median of 13%. In 14 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, few, if any, say religion is not too or not at all important in their lives. By comparison, France (61%), Japan (58%) and Australia (56%) are among several countries where majorities say religion is not too or not at all important to them.

Note: See here for topline results on importance of religion and methodology.

Topics: International Governments and Institutions, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Dec 22, 2015 7:00 am

15 striking findings from 2015

Every year, we look back at our research to select the most memorable facts that illustrate important trends shaping our world. At Pew Research Center, the topics we analyze range from the specific subjects of video gaming and family caregivers to broader areas like political attitudes, global climate change and religious affiliation.

It’s a hard task to select just 15, but here are some of our most striking findings of 2015:

1Just 19% of Americans say they can trust the federal government always or most of the time. That’s among the lowest levels in over 50 years. The long-term erosion of public trust is mirrored by a steep decline in the belief that the government is run for the benefit of all Americans.

2The American middle class is shrinking. After more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the U.S. middle class is now matched in size by those in the economic tiers above and below it. A separate analysis also finds that globally, the middle class is more promise than reality. (See where you fit in the U.S. and worldwide with our interactive calculators.)

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Topics: Federal Government, Generations and Age, Immigration, Immigration Trends, Income, Mexico, Middle Class, Muslims and Islam, News Audience Trends and Attitudes, News Media Trends, News Sources, Population Projections, Race and Ethnicity, Religious Affiliation, Science and Innovation, Social Media, Terrorism, Trust in Government

Dec 21, 2015 3:45 pm

Where Christian churches, other religions stand on gay marriage

The Supreme Court ruling earlier this year legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide has continued to raise questions about how the decision will affect religious groups – especially those that remain opposed to allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed. The court’s ruling makes clear that clergy and religious organizations are not obliged to perform same-sex marriages, but some groups have expressed concerns about their tax-exempt status.

Where Major Religions Stand on Same-Sex MarriageMany of the largest U.S. religious institutions have remained firmly against allowing same-sex marriage, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Jewish movement and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as the Southern Baptist Convention and other evangelical Protestant denominations. The nation’s largest historically black church, the National Baptist Convention, and its biggest Pentecostal denomination, the Assemblies of God, also prohibit their clergy from marrying same-sex couples.

At the same time, in the past two decades, several other religious groups also have moved to allow same-sex couples to marry within their traditions. This includes the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ.

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Topics: Buddhists and Buddhism, Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Evangelical Protestants and Evangelicalism, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Hindus and Hinduism, Jews and Judaism, Mormons and Mormonism

Dec 21, 2015 7:00 am

5 facts about Christmas in America

Wherever Americans stand on holiday-time debates about Starbucks cups, zombie nativity scenes and billboards encouraging people to skip church, it would be hard to disagree that Christmas is still a big part of many people’s lives this time of year.

Just in time for the holidays, here are five facts about Christmas in America and how people celebrate:

1About nine-in-ten Americans (92%) and nearly all Christians (96%) say they celebrate Christmas, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey. This is no surprise, but what might be more unexpected is that a big majority (81%) of non-Christians in the U.S. also celebrate Christmas. This includes 87% of people with no religion and even about three-quarters of Asian-American Buddhists (76%) and Hindus (73%). Roughly a third of U.S. Jews (32%) – many of whom have non-Jewish spouses – said in a 2013 survey that they had a Christmas tree in their homes during the most recent holiday season. Among Americans overall, about half (51%) say they celebrate Christmas as more of a religious holiday, while roughly a third (32%) say it is more of a cultural holiday to them personally. Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Dec 18, 2015 9:55 am

Many Millennials see Christmas as more cultural than religious holiday

Is Christmas more a religious or cultural holiday?Millennials are less religious than older Americans and less likely to identify with a religious group, and those traits are reflected in the way they celebrate Christmas. Nine-in-ten Millennials say they take part in Christmas, but only four-in-ten say they do so mainly as a religious holiday, according to a survey we conducted in 2013.

Belief that Jesus Christ was born to a virginThat stands in contrast to those in older generations, who in some cases are more likely to say they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, attend religious services for Christmas and believe Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, according to a new look at the data. Read More

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Generations and Age, Millennials

Dec 18, 2015 7:00 am

Most U.S. Christian groups grow more accepting of homosexuality

Almost all Christian groups now more accepting of homosexualityAcceptance of homosexuality is rising across the broad spectrum of American Christianity, including among members of churches that strongly oppose homosexual relationships as sinful, according to an extensive Pew Research Center survey of U.S. religious beliefs and practices.

Amid a changing religious landscape that has seen a declining percentage of Americans who identify as Christian, a majority of U.S. Christians (54%) now say that homosexuality should be accepted, rather than discouraged, by society. While this is still considerably lower than the shares of religiously unaffiliated people (83%) and members of non-Christian faiths (76%) who say the same, the Christian figure has increased by 10 percentage points since we conducted a similar study in 2007. It reflects a growing acceptance of homosexuality among all Americans – from 50% to 62% – during the same period.

Among Christians, this trend is driven partly by younger church members, who are generally more accepting of homosexuality than their elder counterparts. For example, roughly half (51%) of evangelical Protestants in the Millennial generation (born between 1981 and 1996) say homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared with a third of evangelical Baby Boomers and a fifth of evangelicals in the Silent generation. Generational differences with similar patterns also are evident among Catholics, mainline Protestants and members of the historically black Protestant tradition. Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Evangelical Protestants and Evangelicalism, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Mormons and Mormonism

Dec 17, 2015 9:55 am

5 key takeaways about parenting in changing times

The landscape of the American family has changed dramatically in recent decades. In the wake of these changes, a new Pew Research Center report looks at the challenges parents face in raising their children and how parenting approaches differ across demographic groups.

Here are some key findings from the report:

1A declining share of children live in two-parent households. Today, 69% of children younger than 18 are living with two parents, down from 87% in 1960. A record-low 62% of children live with two married parents, while 7% live with two cohabiting parents. Meanwhile, the share of children living in single-parent households has increased threefold, from 9% in 1960 to 26% in 2014.

The rising prevalence of divorce, remarriage and cohabitation has caused other changes in family living arrangements, even among those living in two-parent households. In 2014, fewer than half of children (46%) lived in a household with two married parents in their first marriage, down from 73% in 1960. Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Parenthood, Socioeconomic Class, Teens and Youth

Dec 17, 2015 7:00 am

Views on gaming differ by race, ethnicity

About half of U.S. adults (49%) report playing video games on a computer, television, game console or mobile device, and whites, blacks and Hispanics are all equally likely to say they have done so, according to a new Pew Research Center report. But there are some differences among those groups when it comes to how they see gaming.

Today’s gaming population is a more diverse one than in previous years because smartphones and tablets have had a mainstreaming effect on who plays games, according to Dmitri Williams, associate professor at the University of Southern California’s School for Communication and Journalism. But one of the gaps that stand out is between those who play games and those who self-identify as a gamer, Williams said.

Blacks somewhat more likely to find positive attributes in video games, less likely to say they are a waste of timeHispanics are more likely than whites or blacks to categorize themselves as gamers. Some 19% of Hispanics say the term “gamer” describes them well, compared with 11% of blacks and 7% of whites. (Pew Research Center also found that identifying as a gamer varies by gender and age.)

Racial and ethnic differences are evident in other areas. Hispanics are the most likely racial or ethnic group to see a link between violent video games and actual violence. Half (52%) of Hispanics agree with the statement that people who play violent video games are more likely to be violent themselves, compared with 39% of blacks and 37% of whites.

Across several questions, blacks generally hold more positive views about video games. Some 19% of blacks say that most games promote teamwork and communication, compared with 10% of Hispanics and 8% of whites. Blacks are also more inclined to agree that most video games help develop good problem solving and strategic thinking skills – 22% hold this view, versus 18% of Hispanics and 15% of whites. Read More

Topics: Online Gaming, Race and Ethnicity