Apr 24, 2017 1:00 pm

5 facts about the death penalty

Capital punishment is legal in a majority of U.S. states, including in two states – California and Nebraska – where voters decided to retain it in the 2016 election. Nationally, however, public support for the death penalty has fallen in recent years, as has the number of executions.

The death penalty has been back in the news recently as Arkansas carried out its first execution since 2005 – one of eight inmates the state originally planned to put to death over the course of 11 days this month. Courts have since intervened and temporarily halted some of the executions.

As the debate over the death penalty continues in the U.S. and worldwide, here are five facts about the issue:

1The annual number of U.S. executions peaked at 98 in 1999 and has fallen sharply in the years since. In 2016, 20 inmates were executed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. That’s the lowest annual total since 1991, when 14 people were executed. Just five states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Missouri and Texas – accounted for all executions in 2016, compared with 20 states in 1999.

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Religion and U.S. Politics, Criminal Justice, Death Penalty

Apr 21, 2017 10:01 am

Smartphones are common in advanced economies, but digital divides remain

When Pew Research Center surveyed 14 advanced economies in the spring of 2016, one thing was clear: In each of the countries surveyed, nearly all people reported owning a mobile phone. But the shares who own a smartphone vary considerably.

Among the countries surveyed, people in Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain and Australia reported the highest smartphone ownership rates, at roughly eight-in-ten in each country. Nearly as many Americans (77%) said they owned a smartphone, a number that more than doubled since 2011. (A smartphone is defined as a mobile phone that can access the internet or use an app, examples being an iPhone, Android-enabled device or Windows phone. For complete list of examples, see appendix.)

Rates of smartphone ownership were considerably lower in some of the other countries surveyed. About half in Poland (52%) owned a smartphone, though that figure is up significantly since the question was first asked in 2013, when only 21% reported owning a smartphone. And while pluralities in 13 of the 14 countries surveyed reported owning a smartphone, regular mobile devices are still fairly common in Greece (43%), Hungary (41%), and Poland and Japan (both 37%).

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Topics: Technology Adoption, Digital Divide, Mobile

Apr 21, 2017 6:59 am

5 charts showing where France’s National Front draws its support

Marine Le Pen, National Front candidate for the French presidential election, addresses supporters at the start of a conference in Nantes, France, on Feb. 26. (David Vincent/AP)
Marine Le Pen, National Front candidate for the French presidential election, addresses supporters at the start of a conference in Nantes, France, on Feb. 26. (David Vincent/AP)

The first round of the French presidential election, which takes place this Sunday, will be the next big test of whether the kind of populist wave that swept Donald Trump into the White House and carried Britain out of the European Union can maintain its momentum. Five major candidates are competing to qualify for the May 7 second round, which will feature Sunday’s top two performers.

Current polls show a tight race, but most observers believe one of the two runoff candidates will be Marine Le Pen from the populist, far-right National Front. Led for many years by Marine’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the National Front has a history of anti-Semitism and xenophobia, although the younger Le Pen has tried to soften its image somewhat in recent years, even expelling her father from the party for his extreme statements.

In a 2016 Pew Research Center survey only about a quarter of French citizens (23%) expressed a favorable opinion of the National Front. The same poll provided insights into who favored the National Front and where they stood on key issues such as France’s Muslim community, globalization and the European Union.

1Support for the National Front is somewhat stronger among men, the less educated, and Catholics – though even among these groups, support is limited. In 2016, support stood at 28% among men, 26% among those with no college degree and 27% among self-identified Roman Catholics.

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Topics: Europe, Globalization and Trade, Immigration Attitudes, Political Attitudes and Values, Non-U.S. Political Leaders, Foreign Affairs and Policy, National and Cultural Identity

Apr 20, 2017 4:01 pm

For Earth Day, here’s how Americans view environmental issues


The 1970s were an important era for American environmentalism. Congress passed the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, President Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency, and the nation observed its first Earth Day – created by Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson – on April 22, 1970.

Nearly a half century later, Earth Day has expanded across the globe, with dozens of countries holding events, ranging from river clean-ups to rallies addressing climate change. Ahead of this year’s events, here are six findings about the public’s views about the environment:

1Overall, Americans support protecting the environment, but there are deep partisan divides on the issue. In a Pew Research Center survey conducted last year, about three-quarters of U.S. adults (74%) said “the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment,” compared with 23% who said “the country has gone too far in its efforts to protect the environment.”

Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents have consistently been more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment. But as Republican support has decreased since 2004, the gap between the two groups has widened to 38 percentage points.  Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Energy and Environment, U.S. Political Parties, Federal Government, Political Issue Priorities

Apr 20, 2017 11:46 am

Share of Democrats calling Russia ‘greatest danger’ to U.S. is at its highest since end of Cold War

Nearly four-in-ten Democrats (39%) name Russia as the country that represents the greatest danger to the United States – the highest percentage expressing this view in nearly three decades, according to a new survey.

Compared with 2013, the last time this question was asked, greater shares in both parties volunteer Russia as posing the greatest danger to the U.S. – but nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans now say this (39% vs. 21%).

The new Pew Research Center survey of 1,501 adults was conducted April 5-11, before the recent rise in tensions with North Korea, its failed missile test and Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to South Korea.

Overall, 31% of Americans, answering an open-ended question, cite Russia as the country representing the greatest danger to the U.S., while 22% point to North Korea. The shares naming both countries are among their highest dating back to 1990.

Fewer cite China (13%), Iran (9%), Syria (6%) and Iraq (5%) as countries representing the greatest danger to the U.S. Read More

Topics: International Threats and Allies, National Security, Political Party Affiliation, Foreign Affairs and Policy, Russia

Apr 20, 2017 9:36 am

Seeking better data on Hispanics, Census Bureau may change how it asks about race

Federal officials are considering major changes in how they ask Americans about their race and ethnicity, with the goal of producing more accurate and reliable data in the 2020 census and beyond. Recently released Census Bureau research underscores an important reason why: Many Hispanics, who are the nation’s largest minority group, do not identify with the current racial categories.

Census officials say this is a problem because in order to obtain good data, they need to make sure people can match themselves to the choices they are offered. Census data on race and Hispanic origin are used to redraw congressional district boundaries and enforce voting and other civil rights laws, as well as in a wide variety of research, including Pew Research Center studies.

After years of trying to persuade Hispanics to choose a standard race category, the Census Bureau has been testing a new approach, with what the agency says are promising results. In 2015, the bureau contacted 1.2 million U.S. households for a test census that experimented with two different ways of combining the Hispanic and race questions into one question (and included a proposed new “Middle Eastern or North African” category as well). Respondents could self-identify in as many categories as they wanted, or only one.

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Topics: Race and Ethnicity, U.S. Census, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Hispanic/Latino Identity

Apr 20, 2017 7:04 am

Not everyone in advanced economies is using social media

(iStock Photo)
(iStock Photo)

Despite the seeming ubiquity of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, many in Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan do not report regularly visiting social media sites. But majorities in all of the 14 countries surveyed say they at least use the internet.

Social media use is relatively common among people in Sweden, the Netherlands, Australia and the U.S. Around seven-in-ten report using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, but that still leaves a significant minority of the population in those countries (around 30%) who are non-users.

At the other end of the spectrum, in France, only 48% say they use social networking sites. That figure is even lower in Greece (46%), Japan (43%) and Germany (37%). In Germany, this means that more than half of internet users say they do not use social media.  Read More

Topics: Europe, Social Networking, Generations and Age, Technology Adoption, Social Media, Internet Activities

Apr 19, 2017 2:32 pm

Millennials aren’t job-hopping any faster than Generation X did

Micaelah Morrill at Greentown Labs in Somerville, Mass., in May 2016. (Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Micaelah Morrill at Greentown Labs in Somerville, Mass., in May 2016. (Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Millennial workers, those ages 18 to 35, are just as likely to stick with their employers as their older counterparts in Generation X were when they were young adults, according to recently released government data.

And among the college-educated, Millennials have longer track records with their employers than Generation X workers did in 2000 when they were the same age as today’s Millennials.

Every two years the U.S. Department of Labor collects data on how long workers have been with their current employer as part of the Current Population Survey. Though the data have been collected periodically since the early 1950s, the present tenure questions began in 1996, so we can only compare Millennial workers with Gen X workers when they were the same age.

In January 2016, 63.4% of employed Millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1998, reported that they had worked for their current employer at least 13 months. In February 2000, somewhat fewer 18- to 35-year-olds (59.9%) – most of whom are today’s Gen Xers – reported similar job tenure. Looking at young workers with longer tenures, 22% of Millennial workers had been with their employer for at least five years as of 2016, similar to the share of Gen X workers (21.8%) in 2000.  Read More

Topics: Education, Work and Employment, Generations and Age, Educational Attainment, Business and Labor, Millennials

Apr 19, 2017 10:32 am

Sub-Saharan Africa will be home to growing shares of the world’s Christians and Muslims

If demography is destiny, then Christianity’s future lies in Africa. By 2060, a plurality of Christians – more than four-in-ten – will call sub-Saharan Africa home, up from 26% in 2015, according to a new analysis of demographic data by Pew Research Center. At the same time, the share of Christians living in many other regions – notably Europe – is projected to decline.

This shift in the regional concentration of the global Christian population is being driven by a combination of demographic factors, including fertility, age and migration, as well as religious switching into and out of Christianity. In sub-Saharan Africa, Christians, on average, are relatively young and have more children than their coreligionists elsewhere, contributing to the projected rapid population growth in the decades ahead.

By contrast, European Christians are much older and have fewer children. In addition, large numbers of Europeans who were born Christian are leaving the faith to join the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated. As a result, the share of all Christians living in Europe is expected to decline from nearly a quarter in 2015 to just 14% by 2060. Religious switching out of Christianity also is projected to drive down the share of the global Christian population in North America (12% in 2015 to 9% in 2060).  Read More

Topics: Religion and Society, Population Trends, Population Geography, Sub-Saharan Africa, Religious Affiliation, Christians and Christianity, Muslims and Islam, Population Projections

Apr 18, 2017 12:31 pm

Many Americans haven’t heard of the House Freedom Caucus

The House Freedom Caucus drew attention from the White House, lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the press last month because of its opposition to GOP health care legislation. But despite its prominence in Washington, the group is little known to many Americans.

About four-in-ten adults (42%) say they have heard “nothing at all” about the caucus, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted April 5-11 among 1,501 U.S. adults. Another 39% say they have heard “a little” about it, while only about one-in-five Americans (19%) say they have heard “a lot” about the group.

The House Freedom Caucus is a group of conservative Republican lawmakers in the lower chamber of Congress. It was formed in January 2015, and while the caucus does not make its membership public, it is believed to consist of about three dozen lawmakers who share the goal of pushing House GOP leaders toward more conservative positions on fiscal and social issues.

In addition to its opposition to the White House-backed health care bill last month, the caucus also reportedly played a role in the resignation of former House Speaker John Boehner in 2015.

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Topics: Congress, U.S. Political Parties, Federal Government