May 20, 2014 9:02 am

News interest: Conservatives big on Benghazi, liberals follow Nigeria kidnappings and Sterling

The U.S. public's news interest on the benghazi, Nigerian kidnappings and Donald Sterling stories.The country’s ideological divide can be measured a lot of ways, such as by votes or how people stand on issues. But it can also be seen in the news stories that people follow and, last week, conservatives were more interested in the return of the Benghazi story, while liberals focused on coverage of the kidnappings in Nigeria and the uproar over the racial comments of Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling.

Roughly half of liberal Democrats followed news about the Nigerian kidnappings(48%) and Donald Sterling’s comments (47%) very closely. Fewer conservative Republicans paid very close attention to news about the kidnapping (28%) and Sterling’s comments (18%), according to a survey conducted May 15-18.

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Topics: News Interest

May 20, 2014 7:00 am

EU’s mood: A country by country tour

The latest survey results from seven European Union countries reveal a wide range of views across the region about the economy, the future and the EU itself. Just ahead of the parliamentary elections, here’s a tour of the sentiment expressed by the public in each nation.

1The Brits are looking more upbeat

UK Views of EUThe British economy was particularly hard hit by recent economic crisis. In 2009, the economy shrunk by 5.2%. But in 2014, the UK economy is now expected to expand by 2.9%. Not surprisingly, there has been a parallel dramatic turnaround in the British mood in just the last year: 43% of Brits say the nation’s economy is now doing well, up 28 points since 2013.

And 45% expect continued improvement, up 23 points from the optimism expressed last year. What’s more, pessimism has fallen: Just 17% expect the economy to worsen, the lowest economic pessimism among the EU countries surveyed. An improved economic outlook may have bolstered support for the European project: Half of the British public now has a positive view of the European Union. Belief that European economic integration has been good for the UK is up 15 points. (This is particularly true among young Brits.)  Read More

Topics: Europe, Foreign News, International Governments and Institutions

May 19, 2014 1:57 pm

Public and private college grads rank about equally in life satisfaction

Private and public college grads say they are about equally satisfied in lifeAt a time when college tuition is rising rapidly—particularly at the nation’s private colleges and universities—students and their parents face the question of whether a more expensive education leads to greater returns later in life. The answer given by those who have graduated from college is that their feelings of personal satisfaction and economic well-being are about the same, no matter which type of institution they attended, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey.

Majorities of each group were satisfied with their family life, financial situation and current job. There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups on any of those three measures on overall satisfaction, though private school graduates were somewhat more likely than public school graduates to say they were “very satisfied” with their personal financial situation (44% vs. 34%).

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Topics: College, Economics and Personal Finances, Life Satisfaction, Student Loans

May 19, 2014 12:00 pm

Middle East’s Christian population in flux as Pope Francis visits Holy Land

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Jordan, the West Bank and Israel this weekend. Since becoming pope, he has expressed concern for the situation of Christians in the region, whom he said “suffer in a particularly severe way the consequences of tensions and conflicts in many parts of the Middle East.” After meeting with Christian leaders from the region last fall in the Vatican, Francis said he and other Catholic leaders “will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians.”

Christian population trends in the Middle EastBetween 1900 and 2010, the total number of Christians in the region – including Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories – grew from 1.6 million to 7.5 million. But while the Christian population in the Middle East more than quadrupled in that period, the non-Christian population increased ten-fold. As a result, the Christian share of the overall population in the region decreased from 10% in 1900 to 5% in 2010. In recent decades, Christians in the region have tended to be older, have fewer children and be more likely to leave the area compared with Muslims.

Since 2010, there has been considerable population change in the region due to war in Iraq and Syria, hostilities in other countries and related migration, but there is little reliable data to measure overall regional shifts in the last few years. Many Christians have left Iraq in recent years, though many stayed in the Middle East, fleeing to neighboring countries such as Jordan.

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Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Middle East and North Africa, Religion and Politics, Religion and Society

May 19, 2014 7:00 am

32 years ago, experts foresaw much of today’s digital world

Alcatel Minitel communication terminal, France, 1983.
An Alcatel Minitel videotex terminal from 1983. Credit: Science & Society Picture Library via Getty Images

In a new Pew Research Center report, nearly 1,600 technology experts give their thoughts about how the “Internet of Things” — wearable computers, processor-embedded products and other digital advances — will alter society over the next decade. Many (though not all) of the experts foresee, in the words of the report, “a global, immersive, ambient networked computing environment” that will change the way we do everything from stocking our fridges to finding our soulmates.

"Teletext and Videotex in the United States," by Tydeman, Lipinski et al. (1982)Such predictive exercises have a long history, going back at least to H.G. Wells at the beginning of the 20th century. More than 30 years ago, the Institute for the Future, a Silicon Valley think tank, produced a book-length report on the development and potential impacts of electronic information technologies. What’s impressive is how much the report’s authors got right even though their fundamental assumption — that teletext and videotex, two nearly-forgotten platforms, would be in general use by the turn of the century — didn’t pan out.

Back in 1982, when the report was published, not only was the internet nonexistent but its ancestor, ARPANET, had fewer than 300 host computers, mostly at universities, government agencies and the military. At the time, many observers believed that teletext (one-way communication) and videotex (two-way), delivered to televisions or special-purpose terminals via telephone lines or coaxial cable, would be the main vehicles for bringing electronic information services to the masses.  Read More

Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Future of the Internet, Internet Activities

May 16, 2014 4:54 pm

Public school enrollment disparities exist 60 years after historic desegregation ruling

Sixty years ago, the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, holding that racial segregation in public schools violated the Constitution. But while schools have become more integrated, in part due to broad demographic trends, white students remain significantly less likely than minorities to attend diverse schools, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data by the Pew Research Center.

Student enrollment at majority-minority public schoolsIn 2010, some 15.9% of whites attended a school where minorities made up at least half of all students. By comparison, more than three-quarters of Hispanics and blacks (and six-in-ten Asians) attended these “majority-minority” schools. White students, while still a majority in the nation’s public school classrooms, have shrunk in number. From 1990 to 2010, the number of white students decreased by 2.1 million. Meanwhile, the number of black, Hispanic and Asian students in those schools has increased by 8.9 million. White students in 2012 made up 51% of public school students, down from 68% in 1990.

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Topics: Education, Race and Ethnicity

May 16, 2014 3:08 pm

Chart of the Week: Who really drinks the most?


It’s always nice when a graphic not only presents its information clearly and attractively but when it leads you to look at things in a new way, as this chart from The Economist does. Russia and other former Soviet republics and countries of the former Soviet bloc have long been considered among the heaviest-drinking places in the world. And in fact, a new World Health Organization report finds that nine of the 10 countries with the highest per-capita consumption — 13 liters or more of pure alcohol per year for everyone aged 15 and up — are former Soviet-bloc countries. (The exception: tiny Andorra, wedged between France and Spain.)

But even in those nations not everyone drinks. Indeed, when the analysis is restricted only to those people in a country who do drink, the consumption rankings change dramatically.

As the chart shows, Chad and the United Arab Emirates have by far the heaviest drinkers in the world, averaging respectively 33.9 and 32.8 liters of pure alcohol a year (or 71.8 and 70.9 grams a day) — even though there aren’t many drinkers in those countries. Russia falls from 4th (total per-capita) to 30th (drinkers only), just ahead of Belarus. As a rule, the biggest disparities between per-capita and drinkers-only consumption are in countries where there are legal prohibitions or strong religious or cultural taboos against alcohol use.

Topics: Health

May 16, 2014 10:01 am

As Jill Abramson exits the NY Times, a look at how women are faring in newsrooms

Jill Abramson, former executive editor of the New York Times
Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The departure of Jill Abramson marked an abrupt end to the reign of the first woman to run The New York Times, a role that made her a journalistic pioneer in her own right. Her dismissal comes during the same week as the retirement of Barbara Walters, who broke a glass ceiling at ABC in 1976 by becoming the first woman to sit at a network anchor desk. Both events have prompted a debate about the role of women in American journalism and how much—or how little—has changed over the years.  Read More

Topics: Gender, Newspapers

May 15, 2014 12:00 pm

Latinos in the U.S. have a strong belief in the spirit world

A majority of American Catholics see Pope Francis as a major change for the Catholic Church. But in one area, Francis may be the most traditional pope in a generation: He has “not only dwelled far more on Satan in sermons and speeches than his recent predecessors have,” according to a recent Washington Post article, “but also sought to rekindle the Devil’s image as a supernatural entity with the forces of evil at his beck and call.”

Francis is the first pope from Latin America, where “mystical views of Satan still hold sway in broad areas of the region,” according to the Post. Last week, Catholics from 33 countries gathered in Vatican City for a conference on exorcism. The Post estimated the number of “official exorcists” to be between 500 and 600, “the vast majority operating in Latin America and Eastern Europe.” Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Religious Beliefs and Practices

May 15, 2014 10:15 am

By many measures, more borrowers struggling with student-loan payments

Student Debt Delinquency RatesThe growing pile of student-loan debt has become a significant burden for millions of Americans, particularly younger people. Not only is the overhang of student debt impeding wealth accumulation among younger adults, as a new Pew Research Center report concludes, but more and more Americans are having trouble paying down their student loans on time.

In 2012, according to analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, more than 30% of student-loan borrowers who moved into their repayment cycles were delinquent (that is, they’re 90 days or more behind in their payments), up from 20% just eight years earlier. That “effective delinquency rate,” which excludes people who aren’t yet on the hook to start repaying their loans, has risen among all age groups but is highest among borrowers younger than 30: 35% of that subgroup was delinquent in 2012. Read More

Topics: Economics and Personal Finances, Student Loans