May 21, 2015 2:36 pm

For Fact Tank’s anniversary, a look back at the news in the numbers

Much of Pew Research Center’s work focuses on public opinion, in the United States and around the world. But we also track economic and demographic data to see how society is changing. When we launched Fact Tank two years ago, the goal was to expand on the center’s data storytelling by bringing context to the day’s major news events and policy discussions.

To celebrate Fact Tank’s anniversary, here’s a roundup of our most-visited blog posts over the past year, along with some insights into the editorial thinking behind them:
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Topics: Generations and Age, Immigration Trends, Marriage and Divorce, Political Attitudes and Values, Taxes, Violence and Society

May 21, 2015 12:32 pm

Americans are aging, but not as fast as people in Germany, Italy and Japan

U.S. Younger Than Much of Europe and Japan, Older Than Most Other Regions

A new Pew Research Center report shows that in the United States, the share of people aged 65 or older will rise dramatically by 2050. However, the U.S. isn’t experiencing the same gray wave that many other developed nations in Europe and Japan are. At least one-in-five people in Japan, Germany and Italy are already 65 or older, and most other European countries are close behind.

In the U.S., 13% of the population is 65 or older, ranking the country 42nd on this measure out of about 200 other places in 2010, according to United Nations data.

Aging Around the GlobeBut thanks in large part to global increases in life expectancy, populations in all regions of the world are expected to age dramatically in the coming decades, according to the United Nations. Europe and North America will continue to lead this trend, with the largest shares of older people through the middle of the century. Currently, 16% of Europe is comprised of people 65 and older, as is 13% of North America. By 2050, one-fourth (27%) of Europe’s population will be at least 65 years old, as will 22% of North America’s. In Oceania, the share of older people is expected to rise from 11% to 18%.

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Topics: Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Generations and Age, Latin America, North America, Older Adults, Population Trends, Sub-Saharan Africa

May 19, 2015 3:32 pm

More Americans are using social media to connect with politicians

Twitter just gained another famous user: President Barack Obama.

On Monday, the White House launched @POTUS, the official Twitter handle for the commander in chief. Obama will personally oversee the account – as he remarked in his first tweet, “Six years in, they’re finally giving me my own account.” (Until now, there has been a @BarackObama account that was mostly managed by a group spun off from his past campaigns.)

Following Politicians on Social MediaThis seems like a logical next step for an administration that from the start embraced social media — a platform that has come to play a bigger role in how Americans get political news and information.

Overall, 16% of registered voters follow candidates for office, political parties, or elected officials on a social networking site, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted during the lead-up to the 2014 midterm election. That is a 10 percentage point increase from the 2010 midterms, when only 6% of registered voters did so. Read More

Topics: Campaign Outreach and Strategy, Politics Online, Social Media

May 19, 2015 7:00 am

Growing share of U.S. immigrants have no religious affiliation

Immigrants to the U.S. are increasingly identifying themselves as religiously unaffiliated, that is, atheist, agnostic or having “no religion in particular,” according to a new Pew Research Center study of America’s religious composition. Indeed, recent immigrants (those who have arrived since 2000) are as likely to have no religious affiliation as the country’s overall adult population.

Our 2014 Religious Landscape Study, a follow-up to the center’s first Religious Landscape Study in 2007, found that one-in-five immigrants said they did not belong to any religion – an increase of 4 percentage points since 2007, when 16% said they did not associate with any faith tradition.

The new survey also found that the share of Christian immigrants has slipped somewhat in the same period, moving from 75% to 68%. That too is in line with trends in the general population, where the share that is Christian has declined.

There also has been growth in the percentage of immigrants who are adherents of non-Christian faiths, rising from 8% to 12% in the past seven years, the new study found. Some groups have seen significant increases. For instance, Muslims now account for 4% of foreign-born residents in this country, up from 2% in 2007.

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Topics: Christians and Christianity, Hindus and Hinduism, Immigration, Muslims and Islam, Religious Affiliation, Religiously Unaffiliated

May 18, 2015 12:45 pm

Mainline Protestants make up shrinking number of U.S. adults

Most of the Founding Fathers of the United States – not to mention a majority of U.S. presidents – were members of Christian denominations that fall into the mainline Protestant tradition. But in recent years, the share of Americans who identify with mainline Protestantism has been shrinking significantly, a trend driven partly by generational change.

5 Million Fewer Mainline Protestant Adults Than in 2007Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study finds that 14.7% of U.S. adults are affiliated with the mainline Protestant tradition – a sharp decline from 18.1% when our last Religious Landscape Study was conducted in 2007. Mainline Protestants have declined at a faster rate than any other major Christian group, including Catholics and evangelical Protestants, and as a result also are shrinking as a share of all Protestants and Christians.

Indeed, despite overall U.S. population growth between 2007 and 2014, the total number of mainline Protestant adults has decreased by roughly 5 million during that time (from about 41 million in 2007 to 36 million in 2014).

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Topics: Christians and Christianity, Generations and Age, Religious Affiliation

May 18, 2015 7:00 am

With trade on Congress’ agenda, just what does the U.S. import and export?

The Comings and Goings of International Trade

The U.S. Senate may vote this week on whether to give President Obama so-called “fast-track” authority to finish negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Should the fast-track legislation pass the Senate and then the House, the trade deal would get a straight up-or-down vote in Congress, with no amendments allowed.

The TPP would remove trade barriers among 12 nations on both sides of the Pacific, including the United States, which collectively account for about 40% of the global economy. The TPP countries represent about 40% of all U.S. international trade, and they include three of the top four U.S. trade partners: Canada (No. 1), Mexico (No. 3) and Japan (No. 4).

The renewed focus on trade made us wonder: Just what kinds of things does the U.S. export and import, and how have those patterns changed recently? Although services (such as financial services, intellectual property, and travel and transport) are significant, most international trade still involves tangible goods, so that’s what we’ll focus on.  Read More

Topics: Congress, Energy and Environment, Globalization and Trade

May 15, 2015 7:00 am

Compared with other Christian groups, evangelicals’ dropoff is less steep

Number of Evangelical Protestants GrowingUnlike some other groups of Christians in the U.S., evangelical Protestants have not declined much as a share of the U.S. population in recent years, according to a major new Pew Research Center study.

Our 2014 Religious Landscape Study finds that since 2007, when a similar survey was conducted, the share of evangelical Protestants has fallen only modestly, from 26.3% of the adult population to 25.4%. By contrast, both Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants have declined by more than three percentage points during the same period.

Looking at the raw numbers, the evangelical population actually appears to have grown slightly over the last seven years, rising from roughly 60 million to about 62 million. Again, this contrasts with mainline Protestants and Catholics, who together have lost several million adherents during the same time period. Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Evangelical Protestants and Evangelicalism, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation

May 14, 2015 1:41 pm

Methods can matter: Where Web surveys produce different results than phone interviews

Over the past year, Pew Research Center conducted an experiment to see if the mode by which someone was surveyed – in this case, a telephone survey with an interviewer versus a self-administered survey on the Web – would have any effect on the answers people gave. We used two randomly selected groups from our American Trends Panel to do this, asking both groups the same set of 60 questions.

Respondents can give different answers on web-based surveys than in phone interviews.

The result? Overall, our study found that it was fairly common to see differences in responses between those who took the survey with an interviewer by phone and those who took the survey on their own (self-administered) online, but typically the differences were not large. There was a mean difference of 5.5 percentage points and a median difference of 5 points across the 60 questions.

But there were three broad types of questions that produced larger differences (known as mode effects) between the responses of those interviewed by phone vs. Web. These differences are noteworthy given that many pollsters, market research firms and political organizations are increasingly turning to online surveys which, compared with phone surveys, are generally less expensive to produce and faster in yielding results.

Here are three of the areas that showed the biggest mode gaps in responses from the phone and Web groups in our study:

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Topics: Discrimination and Prejudice, Race and Ethnicity, Research Methods, U.S. Political Figures

May 14, 2015 9:01 am

News audiences spread the word, but few get involved in local journalism

News of the Amtrak train derailment Tuesday night was just the latest example of how smartphones and social media have expanded opportunities for the public to not only consume and share local news, but to participate in journalism. Indeed, reports of how passengers escaped from overturned rail cars, as well as other recent local-turned-national news stories such as the Baltimore police protests, have included widely circulated bystander photos and videos. But to what extent is the public directly engaging in acts of journalism?

A March 2015 set of Pew Research Center case studies, along with past research on the subject, suggests that it’s a small but measurable share.

Sharing Local News Much More Common than ContributingWe asked residents about the actions they take to gather, share and add to the news in their communities. In three cities — Denver, Macon, Ga., and Sioux City, Iowa — we found that residents were more likely to share news than to post or submit their own. In Denver, 54% of residents had shared a news story through a digital channel (such as email or social media) in the past year, as did 40% in Sioux City and 36% in Macon. But no more than one-in-ten residents of each city had submitted their own local news content to a news outlet or website.

We also asked a smaller subset of residents — those who say they get local news on a social networking site — about their sharing and posting behaviors on social media. Here, a similar pattern emerged: Twice as many often share or repost local news stories, images or videos (30% in Denver, 28% in Macon and 30% in Sioux City) as post photos or videos that they themselves took of a local news event (16% in Denver, 15% in Macon and 15% in Sioux City). Read More

Topics: Community Media, Local News, Mobile, Social Media

May 14, 2015 7:00 am

Dim public awareness of Supreme Court as major rulings loom

SPOILER ALERT: This post is based in part on Pew Research Center’s latest News IQ Quiz. If you haven’t taken the quiz yet, you might want to do so now before reading on.

Supreme Court's Members Are Little-KnownIn the next few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue rulings that could potentially affect same-sex marriage, health care and capital punishment in the United States.

Yet it remains an institution whose members – and even the facts about some of its most important decisions – are a mystery to many Americans.

In Pew Research Center’s most recent knowledge quiz, just 33% knew that there are three women on the Supreme Court – Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. A higher percentage (39%) said that there are two women on the high court, while 14% said there is one and 4% said four.

It was by far the lowest correct response percentage for any of the 12 questions in the quiz. But lack of awareness about the Supreme Court’s members is nothing new. In fact, Americans have fared no better when asked other questions about the court’s members in recent years. Read More

Topics: Public Knowledge, Supreme Court