Apr 6, 2016 9:30 am

The biggest U.S. tax breaks

FT_16.04.05_taxExpendituresWith just two weeks till this year’s April 18 tax filing deadline, many Americans are still sweating over their 1040s, Schedule A’s and self-employment tax worksheets. One reason they might put in a little extra time: the more than $1.3 trillion worth of tax breaks that are allowed under the Internal Revenue Code.

That’s the total estimated impact for fiscal year 2016 of the nearly 200 major “tax expenditures” – government lingo for tax breaks – that come in the form of exemptions, deductions, credits and other special provisions, according to an annual staff report from Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation. Even that $1.3 trillion figure is an understatement, as the report only gives specifics for a tax expenditure if it’s estimated to cost the government $50 million or more per year; dozens of breaks fall below that threshold. Read More

Topics: Economic Policy, Taxes

Apr 5, 2016 2:00 pm

Voters have a dim view of primaries as a good way to pick the best candidate

Trump supporters more likely than others to say primaries determine the best-qualified nomineesMore than halfway through the presidential primary season, most Americans are skeptical that the primary process has been a good way of determining the best-qualified nominee from each party. But there are differences between supporters of the various candidates on whether the primary process overall is a good way of picking the most qualified standard-bearer, with supporters of Donald Trump standing out in their positive assessment of the primaries so far.

Just 35% of voters say that the primaries have been a good way of determining the best-qualified nominees, a recent Pew Research Center survey on issues and the campaign has found. This is a smaller share than said so during the 2008 election but is on par with views of the primary process in 1992, 1996 and 2000.

Republican voters are more likely than Democratic voters to say the primary process has been a good way of determining the best-qualified nominees. But about half of Republicans (55%) and a clear majority of Democrats (68%) think the primaries so far have not been a good way of determining the best-qualified nominees. While there are partisan differences in these views, there are substantial divides within the parties, particularly the GOP – with Trump supporters expressing the most positive views of the primary process. Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Election News, Elections and Campaigns, U.S. Political Figures, U.S. Political Parties, Voter Participation, Voter Preferences, Voting Issues

Apr 5, 2016 7:00 am

Millennials give Obama a boost as his job rating rebounds

Generation gap in Obama job approval among the widest of his presidencyDuring much of Barack Obama’s presidency, Millennials have been some of his strongest supporters, rating his job performance much more positively than those in older generations. And today — with Obama’s overall approval rating at 51%, the highest in nearly three years – the generation gap in approval is among the widest since he took office in 2009.

About six-in-ten (62%) Millennials (adults born after 1980) approve of the job Obama is doing. By comparison, half of Generation Xers (born 1965-1980), 43% of Boomers (born 1946-1964) and just 37% of Silents (born 1928-1945) offer positive ratings of the president’s job performance. Read More

Topics: Barack Obama, Generations and Age, Presidential Approval, U.S. Political Figures

Apr 4, 2016 12:30 pm

Trump has benefited from evangelicals’ support, but he’s not the first choice of the most committed

White evangelical Republican voters who attend church weekly favor Cruz; half of less-frequent attenders favor Trump

Donald Trump is at the head of the Republican field due, in part, to the strength of support from many self-described “born-again or evangelical” Christians in the early primary and caucus states, according to the exit polls. His success with evangelicals has surprised many observers because of his background; he is a thrice-married man who once described himself as “pro-choice,” and appears not to share some of the beliefs embraced by one of the country’s most socially conservative religious groups.

But a new Pew Research Center poll shows that among evangelicals, Trump performs far worse with the roughly two-thirds who are most religiously committed. Whereas half of white evangelical Republican voters who attend religious services less than once a week say they’d like to see Trump get the GOP nomination, just 31% of churchgoing GOP evangelicals say the same.

White evangelical Republicans who attend church regularly are most heavily concentrated in the Ted Cruz camp. Indeed, roughly half (48%) of Cruz supporters are white evangelical Protestants, and most of them (35% of all Cruz supporters) say they are weekly churchgoers. Smaller shares of Trump (34%) and Kasich (26%) supporters are white evangelicals. Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Religion and U.S. Politics, U.S. Political Figures

Apr 4, 2016 7:00 am

Religious groups in Israel keep to themselves when it comes to marriages and friendships

Israelis are a religiously diverse people who live in close proximity to one another. But when it comes to marriage, they rarely cross religious lines – not only between Judaism, Islam and Christianity, for example, but also across the country’s four major categories of Jewish identity.

These major social fractures in Israeli society also are apparent in people’s friendships, which in most cases also stay within religious groups. Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jews and secular (Hiloni) Jews not only have mostly Jewish friends, but those friends are overwhelmingly within their own segments of Jewish society, according to a Pew Research Center survey that examined the views of 5,601 Israelis.

Civil marriages of any kind, as well as religious intermarriages, cannot be performed in Israel, although civil marriages that take place outside the country are legally recognized. All marriages in Israel — whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian or Druze — are conducted within religious courts and according to religious law. It is not surprising, then, that intermarriage is rare and that nearly all Israelis who are married or living with a partner say their spouse or partner shares their religion. Among Muslims, Christians and Druze, only about 1% of married or cohabitating adults say their spouse has a different religion (or no religion), and roughly 2% of Jews report that their partner is not Jewish. Read More

Topics: Jews and Judaism, Marriage and Divorce, Religion and Society

Apr 1, 2016 1:00 pm

Republicans skeptical their party would unite behind Trump

Amid a contentious 2016 primary season, a majority of Republican voters currently express uncertainty about whether the Republican Party would solidly unite behind Donald Trump if he were to become the party’s general election candidate. At the same time, roughly half of Ted Cruz’s and John Kasich’s supporters say that Trump would make a “poor” or “terrible” president.

For Republicans, Trump is most divisive frontrunner in at least 20 years A majority (56%) of Republican registered voters say that disagreements within the GOP will keep many from supporting Trump as the party’s nominee, while just 38% say the party will solidly unite behind him, according to a new Pew Research Center report. This is the most skeptical either party’s electorate has been of their party’s ability to unite behind a frontrunner in at least 20 years.

The Republican race stands in contrast to that of the Democrats in this regard. The survey finds little evidence of similar unease among Democratic voters about their party’s ability to unite behind Hillary Clinton if she were to become the nominee, with 64% saying the party will do so. This is on par with the shares of Democratic voters saying the party would ultimately unite behind either Barack Obama or Clinton herself in March of 2008.

Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Election News, Elections and Campaigns, Political Attitudes and Values, U.S. Political Figures, U.S. Political Parties, Voter Preferences

Apr 1, 2016 9:21 am

Americans’ views of job availability among most positive in last 15 years

Americans are now more positive about the job opportunities available to them than they have been since the economic meltdown, when views of the job market took a nosedive. Today’s more upbeat views rank among some of the best assessments of the job market in Pew Research Center surveys dating back 15 years.

Views of local job availabilityIn a new Pew Research Center survey on issues and the state of the 2016 campaign, 44% say there are plenty of jobs available in their community, while slightly more (51%) say jobs are difficult to find. That’s much more optimistic than March 2010 ratings, when evaluations of job availability bottomed out, with 85% saying jobs in their community were difficult to find. Back then, just 10% said there were plenty of jobs available. As recently as last January, the share who said jobs were hard to find outweighed the share who said there were plenty available by a 57%-36% margin.

These findings come as the Bureau of Labor Statistics report for March showed that employers had added 215,000 jobs. The unemployment rate stood at 5%.

The rebound in ratings of the job market puts them back around where they were in November 2007, just before the start of the recession, when 41% said plenty of jobs were available and 48% said they were difficult to find. The only time in the past 15 years when ratings of the job situation were more positive than they are now was in June 2001, when the unemployment rate stood at 4.5%. At that time, about as many said jobs were plentiful in their community (42%) as said they were difficult to find (44%). (Pew Research Center trends do not reach back to the late 1990s, a period of economic expansion and wage growth.) Read More

Topics: Economic and Business News, Economic Recession, Economics and Personal Finances

Mar 31, 2016 1:16 pm

Republicans, especially Trump supporters, see free trade deals as bad for U.S.

Trade and free trade agreements have had rough goings in both the Republican and Democratic 2016 presidential campaign debates. All of the remaining candidates from both parties have criticized the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a recently negotiated trade deal between the U.S. and 11 Asia-Pacific nations.

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that criticism of trade deals in general is particularly strong among Republican and Republican-leaning supporters of GOP presidential contender Donald Trump who are registered voters. Americans ages 65 and older and men, especially white men, stand out among this group. Although Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders have both come out against TPP, majorities of their supporters believe trade agreements have been good for the country.

Americans continue to favor free trade agreementsAmericans’ positive view of free trade deals has ebbed in recent years: 51% say such trade agreements between the U.S. and other countries have been a good thing for the country, while 39% believe they have been a bad thing. Favorable views of free trade accords peaked in 2014 (59%), and current positive assessments are similar to those measured in March 2011. Read More

Topics: Foreign Affairs and Policy, Globalization and Trade, U.S. Political Figures, U.S. Political Parties

Mar 31, 2016 7:00 am

10 demographic trends that are shaping the U.S. and the world

At its core, demography is the act of counting people. But it’s also important to study the forces that are driving population change, and measure how these changes have an impact on people’s lives. For example, how does immigration affect U.S. population growth? Do Americans feel that children are better off with a parent at home, in an era when most women work? How is the rise of the young-adult Millennial generation contributing to the rise of Americans with no stated religion? For this year’s Population Association of America (PAA) annual meeting, here is a roundup of some of Pew Research Center’s recent demography-related findings that tell us how America and the world are changing.

1Americans are more racially and ethnically diverse than in the past, and the U.S. is projected to be even more diverse in the coming decades. By 2055, the U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority. Much of this change has been (and will be) driven by immigration. Nearly 59 million immigrants have arrived in the U.S. in the past 50 years, mostly from Latin America and Asia. Today, a near-record 14% of the country’s population is foreign born compared with just 5% in 1965. Over the next five decades, the majority of U.S. population growth is projected to be linked to new Asian and Hispanic immigration. American attitudes about immigration and diversity are supportive of these changes for the most part. More Americans say immigrants strengthen the country than say they burden it, and most say the U.S.’s increasing ethnic diversity makes it a better place to live. Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, African Americans, Demographics, Economics and Personal Finances, Family and Relationships, Family Roles, Generations and Age, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Immigration, Immigration Trends, Income, Parenthood, Population Projections, Population Trends, Race and Ethnicity, Religious Affiliation, Voter Demographics

Mar 30, 2016 2:00 pm

Prior to Lahore bombing, Pakistanis were critical of Taliban and other extremist groups

Photo credit: AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary
Pakistani women mourn for their family member who was killed in a suicide bombing. (Photo by AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

The bombing that took place on Easter Sunday in Lahore, Pakistan, was a devastating reminder that the scourge of terrorism is not confined to the recent headlines from the Middle East and Europe. Pakistan has dealt with multiple extremist insurgencies over the last couple of decades, with a variety of groups operating in the area, including the Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban (Pakistani Taliban or TTP) and most notoriously, al Qaeda and its former leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. special forces in Abbottabad in 2011.

Pakistanis critical of extremist groups, although many offer no opinionA Pew Research Center spring 2015 survey found that Pakistanis were extremely critical of these terrorist organizations and supported government action to fight extremists. And they were also much more confident in the ability of the Pakistani government, led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to tackle extremist groups than they were in 2014.

Overall, Pakistanis had a very negative view of the Taliban and the TTP. (The Lahore bombings were carried out by a TTP splinter group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, and the TTP were also perpetrators of a horrendous massacre in a public army school in Peshawar in late 2014.) In the survey last April, 72% had an unfavorable view of the Taliban umbrella group, while six-in-ten had negative opinions of TTP specifically. About half (53%) of Pakistanis viewed the Afghan Taliban negatively and 47% voiced dislike for al Qaeda. Read More

Topics: Asia and the Pacific, Foreign Affairs and Policy, Foreign News, International Governments and Institutions, International Threats and Allies, Terrorism