Dec 2, 2014 7:00 am

How productive are lame duck Congresses?

LameDuck1Congress is back from its Thanksgiving break to continue its “lame duck” session — so called because it includes senators and representatives who lost their seats in last month’s elections but whose terms won’t expire till January. Among the items on the congressional to-do list: keeping the government funded, extending an assortment of expired tax breaks, and voting on nominees for ambassadorships, judgeships and other offices.

We wondered, how productive are these lame duck sessions, and is the “lame” part of the tag deserved?

LameDuck2Our analysis found that lame duck sessions are shouldering more of the legislative workload than they used to. The last Congress’ lame duck, which stretched from November 2012 past New Year’s Day 2013, passed only 87 public laws, but that was 30.7% of the Congress’ entire two-year output and 31.3% of its substantive output (that is, excluding post-office renamings, National “fill-in-the-blank” Week designations and other purely ceremonial legislation). In 2010, the 99 public laws passed during the 111th Congress’ lame duck session accounted for 25.8% of all that Congress’ laws (and 29.2% of its substantive laws). Read More

Topics: Congress

Dec 1, 2014 2:12 pm

Who are the unauthorized immigrants ineligible for Obama’s executive action?

The 5.8 million unauthorized immigrants not eligible for deportation relief under President Obama’s executive actions are more likely than those eligible to be unmarried and not have U.S.-born children living with them, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

The president’s new and existing programs could shield 48% of the nation’s 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. from deportation. The executive action announced last month offers three-year work permits and deportation relief to about 4 million unauthorized immigrants, primarily parents who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and have U.S. citizen or legal resident children. Read More

Topics: Immigration, Immigration Trends, Unauthorized Immigration

Dec 1, 2014 7:00 am

The darkest side of online harassment: Menacing behavior

Forty percent of adult internet users have personally experienced some kind of online harassment, most of it involving things like name-calling or attempts to embarrass someone. But there are also more menacing forms of harassment such as physical threats, and today, the Supreme Court will hear a case that weighs when threatening speech on social media breaks the law.

The different varieties of online harassment.The case involves a Pennsylvania man who had been convicted of making violent threats on Facebook against his estranged wife and others. The argument pits prosecutors against free speech advocates over whether the man’s posts constituted a “true threat” or whether it was “protected speech” under the First Amendment.

The case mirrors similar issues being wrestled with in the online world. Our recent study of online harassment noted, “At a basic level, there is no clear legal definition of what constitutes ‘online harassment.’ Traditional notions of libel, slander, and threatening speech are sometimes hard to apply to the online environment.”

Read More

Topics: Internet Activities, Social Media

Nov 26, 2014 3:22 pm

Ferguson highlights deep divisions between blacks and whites in America

After a grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., President Obama condemned the riots that followed but said, “We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation.” Obama was speaking specifically of what he described as the “deep distrust [that] exists between law enforcement and communities of color.”

Blacks consistently express lower confidence in police to treat blacks, whites equallyIndeed, Pew Research Center polling consistently shows that blacks and whites have very different views about many aspects of race — from confidence in the police to progress on racial equality. For example, 48% of whites said a lot of progress has been made compared with 32% of blacks, according to a 2013 survey conducted just before the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington. The divide widens further when the question is: How much more needs to be done in order to achieve racial equality? About eight-in-ten (79%) blacks say “a lot” compared with just 44% of whites.

When it comes to Ferguson, a larger share of blacks than whites said the shooting of Michael Brown raised important questions about race, according to an August survey conducted just after the event. Eight-in-ten blacks said the shooting raised issues “that need to be discussed.” Whites took a much different view: about half said race was getting more attention than it deserved while 37% of whites shared the views of most blacks that the case raised larger issues.

There was also a divide between blacks and whites about their levels of confidence in any ensuing Ferguson investigations (these opinions were expressed before it was announced that the Justice Department would probe the case). About three-quarters (76%) of blacks expressed not too much or no confidence at all, while about half (52%) of whites said they did have confidence in whatever investigations would follow. Read More

Topics: Race and Ethnicity, Violence and Society

Nov 25, 2014 3:31 pm

64 countries have religious symbols on their national flags

flags with religious symbols christian muslim

A third of the world’s 196 countries currently have national flags that include religious symbols, according to a new Pew Research analysis. Of the 64 countries in this category, about half have Christian symbols (48%) and about a third include Islamic religious symbols (33%), with imagery on flags from the world’s two largest religious groups appearing across several regions. Read More

Topics: International Governments and Institutions, Religion and Government, Religion and Society

Nov 25, 2014 11:00 am

6 facts about Japan’s downbeat economy

Japan's growing number of older people will put more and more pressure on the working-age population for years to come. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
The growing number of older people in Japan may put more and more pressure on the working-age population. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Japan is a long ways away from the skyrocketing growth the country enjoyed during its post-World War II “economic miracle.” Last week’s lower than expected GDP figures showed Japan slipping into its sixth recession since the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

The world’s third largest economy also faces longer-term challenges, including pessimistic forecasts from the Japanese public, the hollowing out of Japan’s working-age population and the nation’s exorbitant public debt.

Here are six facts about Japan’s economic gloom: Read More

Topics: Asia and the Pacific, Demographics, Economic Recession, World Economies

Nov 24, 2014 3:16 pm

Immigration changes draw broad public interest

FT_news-interest-11-23-14President Obama’s executive action on immigration, expanding deportation relief to millions of undocumented immigrants, attracted strong public interest last week.

Overall, 39% of the public say they paid very close attention to news about Obama’s policy allowing certain immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to remain in the country. A third (33%) tracked news about the outbreak of the Ebola virus very closely while about as many (31%) tracked news about the Islamic militant group known as ISIS.

Amid anticipation over a grand jury ruling in the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., 25% say they are following developments in the shooting death of Michael Brown very closely. That is on par with interest in the weeks following Brown’s death in August. Read More

Topics: News Interest, Unauthorized Immigration

Nov 24, 2014 12:20 pm

Different destinations for U.S. Hispanics, Latin Americans who leave Catholic Church

Where do former Catholics end up? Differences between U.S. Hispanics and Latin Americans.The share of Catholics in Latin America and among U.S. Hispanics is declining, according to two major Pew Research surveys, including a new poll on religion in 18 Latin American countries and Puerto Rico. But the two surveys also show that while Latin Americans leaving the Catholic Church largely have migrated to evangelical or Protestant churches, many of their Hispanic counterparts in the U.S. are abandoning religion altogether.

Of the nearly one-in-four U.S. Hispanics who have left Catholicism, about half (49%) now say that they are atheist, agnostic or have no particular religion, including 55% of those born in the U.S. and 44% of those born outside the U.S. Roughly four-in-ten (41%) Hispanics who have left the Catholic Church say they have joined Protestant churches.

Read More

Topics: Hispanic/Latino Identity, Latin America, Religious Affiliation, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Nov 24, 2014 9:00 am

Facing challenges, pollsters broaden experiments with new methodologies

With the 2014 election in the rearview mirror, public opinion researchers are taking stock of what was learned from new methodologies employed during the election season.

In July, The New York Times and CBS News announced they would begin including online survey panels from UK-based research firm YouGov as part of their election polling efforts.

Scott Keeter, Pew Research Center’s director of survey research

Efforts like these are becoming more common. Other research organizations, including the Pew Research Center, are working to broaden experiments aimed at dealing with the problems confronting traditional probability-based polls, such as the growing difficulty of contacting respondents and then gaining their cooperation. Another goal is to explore ways of taking advantage of opportunities provided by new technologies.

We checked in with Scott Keeter, Pew Research Center’s director of survey research, about these experiments and asked him to explain what they mean for the future of the field of survey research.

In addition to The New York Times/CBS News/YouGov effort, what other interesting methodological approaches did you see during the 2014 election season?

The New York Times/CBS News/YouGov collaboration was the most visible, but other organizations were quietly testing similar approaches. One other trend was the increase in the number of pollsters using registered voter lists, rather than the traditional random digit dialing, to obtain their samples. Although voter list sampling has been around for a long time, the quality of the voter databases has improved in the past few years, making them more attractive as sample sources. Nevertheless, regardless of methodology, many polls underestimated the size of the Republican victory this year, in contrast to 2012 when polls had the opposite problem: they tended to underestimate the performance of Democratic candidates. Read More

Topics: Polling, Research Methodology

Nov 21, 2014 4:36 pm

How Obama’s executive action will impact immigrants, by birth country

While President Obama’s executive action expanding deportation relief to almost half (48%) of the total unauthorized immigrant population will cover people from countries around the world, those born in Mexico will feel the most impact under existing and new guidelines, followed by Central Americans.

The shares of unauthorized immigrants who will be eligible to participate in these programs are lower from the rest of Latin America, Asia and other regions of the world.

More than half of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico (55%) and Central America (51%) will be eligible for deportation relief under the new or existing programs. Obama’s action was particularly relevant for Mexican-born unauthorized immigrants: While only 11% of Mexican unauthorized immigrants were previously eligible for deportation relief under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or through Temporary Protected Status (TPS), yesterday’s announcement will increase that share fivefold. By comparison, among the 51% of unauthorized immigrants born in Central America who will be now eligible for deportation relief, about half (26% of the total) had already been eligible under DACA or TPS.

Read More

Topics: Barack Obama, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Latin America, Unauthorized Immigration