Oct 29, 2015 2:19 pm

The most – and least – energy-intensive nations

Next month, representatives of nearly 200 countries will meet in Paris to try to reach a universal, binding agreement to address global climate change. Two of the biggest obstacles to such an agreement have been the fact that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases vary widely from country to country, and that many leaders fear limiting emissions could impede economic growth, particularly for newly industrializing countries trying to lift people out of poverty.

One metric that ties both of those notions together is energy intensity – the total energy used by a country per unit of gross domestic product (energy consumption being closely related to carbon emissions). Though not without its drawbacks and criticisms, energy intensity is useful as a sort of Energy Star rating for an entire economy: All else being equal, you’d probably prefer to use less energy to generate a given amount of economic output.

While energy intensity can be calculated several ways, for simplicity we use the version adopted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA): the total energy used by a country in a year (in British thermal units, or Btu) divided by the country’s GDP for that year (in constant 2005 U.S. dollars on a purchasing-power parity basis, so the data are comparable across time and national borders). The resulting figure represents how many Btu the country used per dollar of GDP.

The Most and Least Energy-Intensive Places on Earth

Between 1993 and 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, worldwide energy intensity fell 18.7%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from nearly 200 nations and territories compiled by the EIA; most nations (112) reduced their energy intensities over that time period. Read More

Topics: Energy and Environment, World Economies

Oct 29, 2015 9:00 am

Measuring the ‘good’ life around the world

What makes a good life? Usually this question is in the domain of priests, philosophers and metaphysicians, but the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a think tank consisting of 34 mostly rich countries, sought to find the answers with data.

The organization’s Better Life Index looks at 23 indicators of current well-being across 11 domains, from how much people earn and the cost of housing, to life expectancy, and even to how much time off people get from work. Most of the indicators are culled from OECD’s own research based on country-level government data, but they also include public opinion surveys – all of which could be combined to form scores on a “well-being” scale.

The Many Ways to Measure a 'Good' LifeOverall, a Pew Research Center analysis of the data finds that life is good in most of these countries – almost all fall within the organization’s average range. But well-being is notably better for people in Norway and the U.S. than it is for people in Turkey and Mexico.

And there’s a lot of nuance in between. For example, if you think well-being is defined by financial wealth and household income, the U.S. is the place for you. But if you prefer time off from work, France is the ideal place, by far, to put down roots. On the other hand, if you are trying to avoid victimization and dying from assault, Mexico is not your ideal destination.

The reports’ authors looked at the essential ingredients that shape people’s well-being in these 34 nations. To standardize different measures, OECD converted each indicator to a “z score” that represents standard deviations above or below the 34-nation average. The OECD average is represented by a z score of 0; scores closer to 1 and above represent higher well-being and those closer to -1 and below indicate lower well-being. We analyzed the data by averaging the z scores across all 23 indicators to see how the countries ranked. For this average, each indicator received equal weight. Read More

Topics: Health, International Governments and Institutions, Life Satisfaction, World Economies

Oct 28, 2015 3:36 pm

Where Republicans are united, divided on the economy

Republicans differ sharply from Democrats in their views on the state of the economy, the tax system, government aid to the poor and other issues. But Republicans also have divisions within their own ranks.

Here is a profile of Republicans’ views of the economy and economic policy, based on our surveys:

Republicans More Pessimistic About RecoveryRecovery

As a whole, Republicans are more bearish about the national economy than Democrats. Just 16% of Republicans rated the economy as excellent or good in our May survey, compared with 36% of Democrats. And Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the economy isn’t recovering. One-in-three Republicans (33%) said the economy wasn’t recovering at all, compared with 7% of Democrats. In a January survey, more Republicans (63%) than Democrats (47%) said they were falling behind financially.

When asked in July, Americans rated the parties about equally when it came to which would better handle the economy.


The federal budget deficit remains a top issue for Republicans. About eight-in-ten Republicans (78%) said in September that the budget would be “very important” to their vote in 2016, compared with 58% of Democrats.

Read More

Topics: Federal Government, National Economy, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation

Oct 26, 2015 2:46 pm

Most U.S. Catholics hope for change in church rule on divorce, Communion

Fewer Than Half of Catholics Say Homosexual Behavior, Remarriage Without Annulment, Cohabitation, Contraception Are SinsThe Vatican synod on the family concluded over the weekend – with somewhat inconclusive results that were open to multiple interpretations.

While there were many topics of conversation – including homosexuality, cohabitation and contraception – much of the focus fell on Catholics who have been divorced and remarried without an annulment, and the debate over whether the church would allow them to receive Communion. The synod’s final document, with each paragraph approved by at least two-thirds of the 265 voting bishops in attendance, did not take a clear stance on the issue, but some observers expect Pope Francis may leave it up to local parishes.

Most U.S. Catholics (62%) think the church should allow Catholics who have been divorced and remarried without an annulment to receive Communion, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. And only about a third of American Catholics (35%) say they personally think getting remarried after a divorce without an annulment is sinful, compared with half (49%) who say it is not a sin. Only 21% of Catholics say simply getting a divorce is sinful, while 61% say it is not. Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Marriage and Divorce, Religion and Society

Oct 26, 2015 10:45 am

Half of all church fires in past 20 years were arsons

Deacon Clinton McMiller (left) and Pastor David Triggs carry a cabinet back into New Life Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis on Oct. 18. An outdoor service had been held there because of a fire at the church that was believed to be intentionally set. (J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)
Deacon Clinton McMiller (left) and Pastor David Triggs carry a cabinet back into New Life Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis on Oct. 18. An outdoor service had been held because of a fire there over the weekend. (J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

A spate of arsons this month at six predominately black churches in the St. Louis area has raised concerns that these incidents could be racially motivated. But they are by no means the first arsons at places of worship this year.

As of July 14, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had ruled 29 of 79 fires at houses of worship in 2015 to be arson, although some investigations were ongoing.

Indeed, about half of all the fires at houses of worship in the past 20 years were intentionally set, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the ATF. Of the 4,705 reported fire incidents at houses of worship between 1996 and 2015, 2,378, or 51%, had been ruled intentional as of July. Read More

Topics: Discrimination and Prejudice, Religion and Society, Restrictions on Religion

Oct 22, 2015 12:27 pm

5 facts about the interplay between religion and science

From the heresy trial of Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei four centuries ago to the uproar over Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, religion and science have often been seen as being in conflict. But are religious faith and the scientific enterprise really at odds with each other?

A new Pew Research Center survey examines this question through the lens of American public opinion and across a range of scientific topics. We found that a majority of Americans (59%) say that science is often in conflict with religion, with only 38% saying the two areas are mostly compatible. Here are five key findings from the report:

1PI_15.09.13_ScienceReligion_LeastReligiouslyObservantThe least religiously observant Americans are most likely to perceive conflict between religion and science. Some 73% of adults who seldom or never attend religious services say science and religion are often in conflict, while half of adults who attend religious services at least weekly say the same.

2Most American adults (68%) say there is no conflict between their personal religious beliefs and science. For the 30% who do see a conflict, the most common source of disagreement involves beliefs about evolution and the creation of the universe.  Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Religion and Society, Science and Innovation

Oct 22, 2015 11:37 am

Freedom Caucus districts look much like other GOP-held districts

Where are Freedom Caucus districts Throughout this year, when the several dozen members of the House Freedom Caucus clashed repeatedly with the House GOP leadership, they defended themselves by saying they were only doing what their voters back home wanted.

“We’re going to focus on what we believe middle-class voters sent us here to do,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio told National Review Online shortly after he and eight colleagues announced the Republican group’s formation. Eight months later, in its statement endorsing Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida for speaker, the Freedom Caucus declared, “It is clear that our constituents will simply not accept a continuation of the status quo, and that the viability of the Republican Party depends on whether we start listening to our voters and fighting to keep our promises.”

Clearly some individual constituents approve of the Freedom Caucus’ hard-line stance. But a new Pew Research Center survey analysis finds that the attitudes of Republicans living in Freedom Caucus members’ districts look very similar to those in other Republican-represented districts, and that the overall demographics of Freedom Caucus districts and other GOP-held districts are similar as well.

Read More

Topics: Congress, Political Attitudes and Values

Oct 21, 2015 1:57 pm

Gun homicides steady after decline in ’90s; suicide rate edges up

Gun Violence Has Declined Since '90sSeveral mass shootings in recent months have brought renewed attention to the issue of gun violence in America, and President Obama has again called for Congress to change the nation’s gun laws.

But the increased spotlight on guns does not reflect the overall gun violence trend in the country. Although most Americans think the number of gun crimes has risen, the U.S. gun homicide rate has actually stabilized somewhat in recent years, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of death certificate data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 1993 and 2000, the gun homicide rate dropped by nearly half, from 7.0 homicides to 3.8 homicides per 100,000 people. Since then, the gun homicide rate has remained relatively flat. From 2009 to 2014, the most recent year data are available, the number of gun homicides has hovered around 11,000 and 12,000 per year.

By contrast, a significantly higher – and growing – number of gun deaths were by suicide than by homicide, and this has been true throughout the past two decades. For example, while the gun suicide rate has declined overall since 1993, in recent years it has risen, from 6.3 per 100,000 people in 2010 to 6.7 in 2014.

The nation’s overall gun death rate has declined 31% since 1993. This total includes homicides and suicides, in addition to a smaller number of fatal police shootings, accidental shooting deaths and those of undetermined intent. For example, in 2014 there were 464 fatal police shootings, up from 333 in 2009. (Government data on fatal police shootings are also collected and reported by the FBI, though the agency acknowledges there are discrepancies between federal and local law enforcement counts.) Read More

Topics: Gun Control

Oct 20, 2015 12:00 pm

What is the House Freedom Caucus, and who’s in it?

Amid all the coverage of House Republicans’ unruly efforts to select a speaker who can command broad support from their fractious ranks, one name keeps coming up: the House Freedom Caucus. But what, exactly, is the House Freedom Caucus?

Pew Research Center has confirmed the identities of 36 Freedom Caucus members through representatives’ public statements, their comments to the media or their offices’ direct responses. A handful of other House members who reportedly belong to the group could not be confirmed. (The communications director for Rep. Darrell Issa of California, for example, said he could neither confirm nor deny Issa’s membership in the caucus.)

Ideologically speaking, they’re among the most conservative of House Republicans, though not all are on the rightmost end of the spectrum.

Typical Freedom Caucus Member Is More Conservative Than Other Republicans

To quantify this, we used a dataset called DW-NOMINATE, first developed by political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal in the early 1980s and refined and updated since. In simplified form, DW-NOMINATE assigns each representative a score ranging from -1 (most liberal) to +1 (most conservative) based on roll-call votes. Read More

Category: Sortable Table

Topics: Congress, U.S. Political Parties

Oct 20, 2015 11:29 am

What Canada’s new government might mean for U.S. relations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau makes his way to the stage with wife Sophie Gregoire at the Liberal Party headquarters in Montreal on Tuesday. Trudeau, the son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, became Canada’s new prime minister after beating Conservative Stephen Harper. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canada’s Liberal Party captured a majority of seats in Monday’s federal election, winning enough votes to form a new government. Justin Trudeau, son of a former Liberal leader, will be the first member of his party to serve as prime minister since 2006.

So, what does this mean for the U.S.’s relationship with its northern-border ally? Canada’s Liberal Party is often classified as centrist, and a recent Pew Research Center survey finds that they indeed represent the middle path on Canadian views toward the U.S. But on some key issues, like the Keystone XL pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), supporters of Canada’s Liberal Party are less supportive than their Conservative Party predecessors.

Canadians', Americans' Views of KeystoneOn the Keystone XL pipeline, a new Liberal-run government might be less inclined to push the U.S. to approve the stalled project. While Trudeau has pledged his support for the pipeline, which would deliver oil from the Alberta oil sands region to U.S. refineries, overall support for the venture in Canada is tepid.

In our most recent survey, Canadians are split: 42% favor building the pipeline, while 48% are against it. Among Liberal supporters, 45% approve of the pipeline, with a nearly identical 46% opposed. Conservative Party backers are much more enthused by the project (72% support it), while backers of the left-leaning, social-democrat New Democratic Party (22%) are least supportive. Read More

Topics: Bilateral Relations, Globalization and Trade, International Governments and Institutions, North America, U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism, World Elections