Apr 2, 2014 11:00 am

Feds may be rethinking the drug war, but states have been leading the way

FT_14.03.19_drug_laws310pxFederal drug policy is in the midst of a major conceptual shift away from the long, automatic prison sentences and zero-tolerance policies of the “War on Drugs” era. But it’s the states, whose prisons house the vast bulk of U.S. convicts, that have been leading the way in changing drug laws.

Much of the current rethinking of America’s drug war speaks to today’s environment: Violent crime has fallen, attitudes towards drugs have shifted and the Great Recession has squeezed public budgets.

There’s also wide public support for changing government drug policies. In a new Pew Research Center report, 67% of people said government should focus more on treating people who use illegal drugs, compared with 26% saying prosecution should be the focus. More than six-in-ten (63%) now say that state moves away from mandatory prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders is a good thing, versus 32% who called it a bad thing.

(It’s quite a different story than in 1990, when 73% of Americans favored a mandatory death penalty for “major drug traffickers,” and 57% said police should be allowed to search the houses of “known drug dealers” without a court order.) Read More

Topics: Criminal Justice, Drugs

Apr 2, 2014 10:12 am

Hispanics punch below their weight in midterm elections

FT_voter-turnout-midterms-by-raceHispanics have voted in record numbers in recent years, but their turnout rate continues to lag behind whites and blacks, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census data.

Hispanics today make up 11.3% of all eligible voters. But voter turnout among Hispanics has not kept pace with the growing number of eligible voters in recent national elections. In 2010, Hispanics cast a record 6.6 million ballots out of 21.3 million eligible voters, a turnout rate of 31.2%. But that was still far below the turnout among black voters (44%) and white voters (48.6%).

A record 24.8 million Hispanics are eligible to vote in 2014, according to February Census figures, up from 21.3 million in 2010. Read More

Topics: Hispanic/Latino Vote

Apr 1, 2014 1:16 pm

Catholics, other Christians support immigration reform, but say faith plays small role

Views on immigration by select race and religionSeveral prominent U.S. Catholic bishops called attention to immigration reform today in Nogales, Ariz., along the border with Mexico. The bishops celebrated Mass and said they would “pray for and remember” the migrants who have died trying to cross the border. Their goal, they said, was to highlight “the human consequences of a broken immigration system and call upon the U.S. Congress” to fix it. Immigration reform also came up during last week’s meeting between President Obama and Pope Francis.

It’s not just Catholic leaders who are speaking out over reform. Some large Protestant evangelical organizations are strong supporters of immigration reform, as are some Mormon and mainline Protestant leaders. They have framed the issue as a moral one, with both Christian and Jewish leaders citing a verse from the book of Leviticus: “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens.”

Three-quarters of American adults say that immigrants living in the United States illegally should be able to stay, according to our 2014 survey. Catholics as a whole closely resemble the general public on this question, though Hispanic Catholics are much more supportive than non-Hispanic white Catholics of allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the country (91% vs. 70%).  Like Catholics, majorities of other religious groups also support allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the country.

Half of Americans – including 59% of Catholics – say it’s extremely or very important to them for President Obama and Congress to pass significant new immigration legislation this year. Not surprisingly, the issue is of particular concern to Hispanic Catholics, 73% of whom say passing immigration legislation should be an extremely or very important priority for political leaders this year. Among white Catholics and people from other racial and religious backgrounds, by contrast, half or fewer attach this level of importance to immigration reform.  Read More

Topics: Immigration Attitudes, Religion and Politics

Apr 1, 2014 11:18 am

Data Feed: New high in Obamacare support, household income rises, population falls in small town America

A daily roundup of fresh data from scholars, governments, think tanks, pollsters and other social science researchers.

At 49%, Obamacare support hits a new high, topline, ABC News/Washington Post
Politics are biggest factor in views of healthcare law, Gallup
DNC has racked up large debt and lags RNC in fundraising, The Wall Street Journal
A gaffe can matter when it motivates the base, FiveThirtyEight

Investors young and old are risk-averse when it comes to retirement savings, Gallup
Interactive: State employment changes by industry, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Retail sales, cashiers are occupations with largest employment, BLS
Employment continued its road to recovery in 2013, BLS
Funding gap continues to grow in state pension plans, The Pew Charitable Trusts
Median household income rose 1.2% in February, Sentier Research

Read More

Category: Data Feed

Apr 1, 2014 7:00 am

Americans: Disengaged, feeling less respected, but still see U.S. as world’s military superpower

Majority of Americans Say U.S. Should Mind Its Own Business InternationallyUnsurprisingly all the polls show that Americans don’t want to get too involved in Ukraine’s problems with Russian encroachment, just as they have been disinclined to get drawn into other recent world trouble spots, including Syria, Egypt and Libya. This is not surprising because in record numbers, Pew Research Center surveys find Americans saying the U.S. should mind its own business and let other countries get along as best they can.

Over the past decade, disillusionment with U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have been coincident with the growing number of Americans who are reluctant to see the U.S. take an active role in solving international problems. Indeed, a recent Pew Research national survey found respondents saying, by a margin of 51% to 17%, that the United States does too much rather than too little in helping solve world problems.

Most Americans Favor Shared World LeadershipAn important thing to recognize, however, is that the public’s current mood of disengagement is consistent with how it sees the U.S.’s global leadership role. For the past 20 years, Americans have favored a modest international leadership role. Currently just 12% think the U.S. should be the single world power while 20% think it should play a first among equals role. What most Americans (72%) want is the U.S. to play a shared world leadership role.  Read More

Topics: Foreign Affairs and Policy, Globalization and Trade

Mar 31, 2014 4:43 pm

Many around the world see climate change as a major threat

A report issued yesterday by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the planet is already suffering significantly from the effects of climate change and that the threat will only grow more serious in the years ahead —the kind of warning that people in many nations say they take seriously.

Global climate change was the top-rated threat in a 39-nation Pew Research Center survey conducted in spring 2013. A median of 54% across these countries said global climate change was a major threat to their country, slightly more than the 52% who said this about international financial instability. High levels of concern were also expressed about Islamic extremist groups, as well as the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.  Overall, American power and influence, Chinese power and influence, and Pakistani instability generated fewer worries.

Climate change rated top global threat

Compared with others around the world, Americans are less concerned about climate change – just 40% rate it a major threat. However, there are sharp partisan differences on this issue. A 55%-majority of Democrats consider climate change a major threat, compared with just 42% of independents and 22% of Republicans.

Concerns about climate change are also relatively low in China, which has surpassed the U.S. to  become the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter. Just 39% of Chinese say climate change is a major threat to their country. 

Topics: Energy and Environment

Mar 31, 2014 11:21 am

Data Feed: New climate change report, survey of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, the 1% versus the 0.01%

A daily roundup of fresh data from scholars, governments, think tanks, pollsters and other social science researchers.

Va. voters back medical marijuana; 50% support same-sex marriage, Quinnipiac
Analysis: Midterms pose formidable challenge for Democrats, Pew Research via WSJ

Consumer confidence in March survives harsh winter, University of Michigan
Inequality within the ranks of the 1%, The Atlantic
260K college, professional grads earned minimum wage or less in 2013, CNN Money
Texas, North Dakota, California top oil-producing states, EIA
Startups in central cities, walkable suburbs get most venture capital, Atlantic Cities
Pay increases for academic professionals outpace inflation, Chronicle of Higher Ed.

Read More

Category: Data Feed

Mar 31, 2014 11:00 am

Key findings about India ahead of its national election

On the eve of their parliamentary election, a new poll finds Indians are disgruntled about the state of their nation, deeply worried about a range of problems facing their society and supportive of new leadership in New Delhi. However, they remain fairly upbeat about the economic prospects for both India and the next generation.

Notwithstanding recent high-profile official frictions with the United States, the Indian public has a generally positive view of America. Meanwhile, Indians are divided in their opinions about the world’s rising superpower: China. And they remain deeply wary of Pakistan, although they would like to see Indo-Pakistani relations improve. Here are five key findings from the Pew Research Center’s recent survey of the Indian public’s mood in the run up to the April 7 election:

Rural Indians favor BJPRural Indians prefer the BJP, despite Congress’ long ties to the rural poor. The Congress party has long drawn much of its support from rural Indians and has pursued policies to solidify that backing, such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the National Food Security program, both of which Indians overwhelmingly favor. Nevertheless, rural Indians favor the BJP, not Congress, to lead the next government by more than three-to-one (64% to 18%), roughly the same proportion as favor the BJP in urban areas. Read More

Topics: Asia and the Pacific, World Elections

Mar 31, 2014 10:36 am

When’s that Obamacare deadline? Like it or not, it’s today

Although the Obama administration last week extended the deadline for enrolling in a health coverage plan for those who had started but not completed the process, today is the last day for many of the uninsured to either sign up or face penalties when they pay their federal taxes next year.

The health insurance mandate remains by far the best-known part of the law — 78% of the public is aware of it. And it is the most disliked with only 35% of Americans having a favorable view of the provision (64% unfavorable), according to a Kaiser Health Tracking poll conducted in mid-March. The unpopularity of the mandate far outdistances public disapproval of the overall law itself (46% disapprove, 38% approve).

As of mid-March, the Kaiser survey found that many of the uninsured were unaware of today’s deadline, although most did know that the law imposed penalties for those who failed to obtain insurance.

Even before the deadline extension was announced, there was an array of exemptions for hardships and other reasons.

But the survey also found, that four years after its passage, many uninsured Americans, as well as those who do have coverage, still are unaware of some of its important provisions, or harbor misconceptions about what the law does.  Read More

Topics: Health Care

Mar 28, 2014 1:55 pm

Chart of the Week: The increasing number of executions around the world

executions_worldAlthough capital punishment is practiced in only a relative handful of countries (140 countries have abolished it in law or in practice, according to Amnesty International), there were nearly 100 more executions around the world last year than in 2012, a 14% increase. The chart above, created by The Economist based on Amnesty’s data, graphically shows that just a few countries are responsible for most executions.

At least 778 executions took place last year in 22 countries, up from 682 in 2012, according to Amnesty. Several countries, including Kuwait, Nigeria, Indonesia and Vietnam resumed use of the death penalty after several years without any executions.

But as the organization admits, that figure captures only a minority of all executions. Some human rights organizations believe that China executes thousands of people a year, but reliable data is difficult to obtain. Officials in Iran acknowledged 369 executions last year, Amnesty said, but “[c]redible sources pointed to many hundreds more taking place in secret, bringing the total to more than 700.” There were no estimates for Egypt or Syria.

Taking third place was Iraq, where “at least” 169 people were put to death, almost one-third more than in 2012. Saudi Arabia executed 79 people last year, followed by the U.S. (39) and Somalia (34). In the U.S., the number of executions has fallen in recent years, as violent crime has dropped and a growing number of prisoners have been exonerated based on factors such as DNA evidence. The percentage of Americans who support the death penalty for murder has fallen to 55%, a low not seen in decades.

Category: Chart of the Week