Sep 2, 2014 7:00 am

School days: How the U.S. compares with other countries

schoolDays_3By now, most U.S. schoolchildren are either back in the classroom or headed there soon. As they make the transition from summer camp and bug spray to math homework and science projects, their weary parents may well wonder if children in the U.S. spend less time in the classroom than kids in other countries.

The answer: Not really, though it’s hard to say for sure.

Making comparisons between the U.S. and other countries is complicated, mainly because each U.S. state sets its own standards for minimum instructional time (more on that below), while in other countries such standards typically are set at the national level. Because of variations in the length of both the school day and the school year, the best basis for comparison is total number of instructional hours per school year. And since many states have different minimums for different grade levels, we picked three representative grades — one each for elementary, middle and high school.

Among 33 mostly developed nations, annual “total intended instructional time” averaged 790 hours for primary students (ranging from 470 hours in Russia to 1,007 hours in Chile) according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. For the international equivalent of U.S. middle-schoolers, average annual required hours increased to 925 (ranging from 741 hours in Sweden to 1,167 hours in Mexico). The OECD did not have data for high schoolers. Read More

Topics: Education

Aug 29, 2014 1:23 pm

Russian poll: Putin faces limited opposition from his public on Ukraine

Levada poll: Putin faces limited opposition from Russian public on Ukraine
A Russian military helicopter prepares to land near a convoy of white trucks with humanitarian aid parked near Ukrainian border in mid-August. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Russian President Vladimir Putin denies the Kremlin has had a hand in the continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, even as President Obama and other Western officials say they have proof of “deep Russian involvement.” At home, Putin faces far fewer questions from a public that draws a distinction between support for separatist rebels and having a direct role in the continued violence in eastern Ukraine.

A 56%-majority of Russians say their country has yet to get involved in what is happening in Ukraine, compared with roughly a third of Russians (32%) who think Russia has already intervened, according to a survey conducted August 22-25 by the independent, Moscow-based Levada Center.

The nationwide, representative survey of 1,600 adults suggests that many Russians do not consider support to separatist rebels as actually intervening in Ukraine. Half say the Kremlin actively backs pro-Russian forces in Ukraine and 55% think this is the right thing to do.

Only about a quarter of Russians (26%) think their country and Ukraine are currently at war, compared to six-in-ten (59%) who disagree, according to the Levada poll.

The perception among Russians that the country is principally providing support to the separatists and has not entered the war itself is an important one. The public is split on whether they would support the Kremlin in the event of open military conflict with Ukraine: 41% say yes, 43% say no, while 16% are unsure. And, the share of Russians prepared to back the government in the event of war with Ukraine has fallen dramatically from this past spring, when seven-in-ten or more in March and May (74% and 69%, respectively) said they would back such intervention.

Read More

Topics: Eastern Europe, Russia, Wars and International Conflicts

Aug 29, 2014 1:10 pm

For Labor Day, a look at the state of underemployment

Joblessness is falling but still historically highLabor Day is intended to honor working Americans. But six years after the financial panic that nearly sank the U.S. economy, it’s the millions of Americans who aren’t working, or working less than they want to, who pose a challenge to policymakers and are a major contributor to Americans’ persistently sour feeling about the economy.

Although the official unemployment rate was down to 6.2% in July (figures from August are due out Sept. 5), many economists and other analysts have concluded that that measure doesn’t fully capture what’s happened to the U.S. economy since the Great Recession officially ended in the summer of 2009. An alternate measure, dubbed U-6 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, adds two more groups to the officially unemployed: people who are considered “marginally attached” to the labor force, in that they want and are available to work but haven’t looked for a job recently, and people working part-time for economic reasons rather than by their own choice (also called “involuntary” part-time workers).

Including those two groups, labor economists say, produces a more comprehensive measure of “labor underutilization,” or underemployment. The U-6 measure was at 12.2% in July — 6 full percentage points higher than the official unemployment rate. Read More

Topics: Business and Labor, Economic Policy, Economic Recession, National Economy

Aug 28, 2014 11:49 am

Latino confidence in local police lower than among whites

Hispanic Views of PoliceAbout half of Hispanics say they have a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in their local police force to not use excessive force on suspects and to treat people equally regardless of race or ethnicity, according to new data from a Pew Research Center survey released earlier this week.

Overall, there are significant gaps in views of local police between whites, blacks and Hispanics, with whites the most likely to express confidence in police and blacks the least likely to do so.

Just 46% of Hispanics say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in local police to treat Hispanics and whites equally, while 72% of whites say this. Similarly, 77% of whites express confidence in police in their community to gain the trust of local residents, while just 51% of Hispanics and 45% of blacks say the same.  Read More

Topics: Race and Ethnicity, Violence and Society

Aug 27, 2014 10:00 am

Within the black community, young and old differ on police searches, discrimination

FT_blacks-views-police-searchesIn the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, some of the media coverage has focused on a generational divide among blacks: the old guard that marched and protested in the 1960s under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mantra of nonviolent civil disobedience, and today’s young adults who use social media to galvanize their message.

Recent survey data from the Pew Research Center suggest that there is a sharp divide between younger and older blacks on the issue of police searches. Older blacks (those ages 60 and older) are evenly split when it comes to what tactics the police should use in pursuing crime suspects. Some 46% say the police should be allowed to stop and search anyone who fits the general description of a crime suspect, while roughly the same share (50%) say the police should not be able to search people just because they think they look suspicious.  Read More

Topics: African Americans, Discrimination and Prejudice, Race and Ethnicity

Aug 27, 2014 7:00 am

Many religions heavily concentrated in one or two countries

Where at least half the followers of the world's religions live

Earlier this summer, on World Population Day, we explained that half of the world’s population lives in just six countries. In many cases, the world’s major religious groups are even more concentrated, with half or more of their followers living in one or a handful of countries. For several years, demographers at the Pew Research Center have been studying the demographic characteristics of eight groups: Buddhists, Christians, adherents of folk religions, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, the religiously unaffiliated and followers of other religions.

While Christians and Muslims are more widely distributed around the world, the other groups have a majority of their populations in just one or two nations, according to 2010 estimates from our Global Religious Landscape report.

Read More

Topics: Buddhists and Buddhism, Christians and Christianity, Hindus and Hinduism, Jews and Judaism, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Religiously Unaffiliated

Aug 26, 2014 7:00 am

Despite rocky diplomatic relations, Venezuelan public prefers U.S. to Cuba

Venezuela has had a rough year. With inflation topping 60% in May, new talk of raising the country’s incredibly low gas prices and shortages of goods ranging from coffee to toilet paper, the socialist government is reaching out to allies in an effort to alleviate the country’s pervasive economic problems. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan public has very different views about two of the nation’s most important trade partners: the United States and Cuba.

Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolás Maduro is no fan of the U.S., but that doesn’t mean Venezuelans take the same view. According to Pew Research Center’s Spring 2014 global survey, Venezuelans have generally positive attitudes concerning the U.S. At a rate of two-to-one, the Venezuelan public holds a more favorable (62%) than unfavorable (31%) view of their biggest trade partner. This represents a nine point uptick in support since 2013, when 53% shared positive feelings toward the U.S. Younger Venezuelans are especially likely to view the U.S. favorably – 66% of those ages 18-29 express a positive opinion. Still, a majority of those ages 50 and older (56%) also perceive the U.S. favorably.

Venezuelans Views of U.S., CubaThe biggest disagreements about the U.S. break along ideological lines. Venezuelans who lean to the right of the political spectrum see the U.S. in an overwhelmingly positive light (84%), while only 12% have a negative opinion. Venezuela’s political left, which aligns with President Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela, tends to be more critical of the U.S. (62% unfavorable v. 34% favorable). This is none too surprising given the tumultuous relationship between Maduro and the U.S. in recent months and the many years of tension between Washington and Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez. Chávez, who blamed the U.S. for organizing a coup against him in 2002, often stoked anti-American sentiment with colorful quips, including claims that the U.S. “invented technology to spread cancer” to South American leaders and referring to then-President George W. Bush as “the devil,” “a donkey” and “a drunkard.” Despite this, a majority of moderates (63%) see America favorably. Read More

Topics: Latin America, U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism

Aug 25, 2014 9:59 am

Where was Ferguson in my Facebook feed?

If you are an avid social media user — and have been following recent events in Ferguson, Missouri — you may have noticed a difference in the content of your Facebook and Twitter feeds on the story. The reason goes back to a complex and somewhat mysterious interplay between the platforms’ designs and your own behavior.

How people on Facebook use it for newsA number of journalists and commentators observed a jarring disconnect between the mostly uncontroversial posts on Facebook (like chatter about celebrities taking the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise funds for the fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease), and the stream of visceral reportage from the tense scene in Ferguson, where citizens had gathered to protest the August 9th police killing of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown.

Some, like sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, noticed a delayed reaction to the breaking news on Facebook. Others, like Gigaom’s Mathew Ingram, attributed the lack of news on Facebook to the way that interactions are structured on the social network. They and others argued that Facebook’s algorithmic filtering heavily influences the content Facebook users see on the site, and why their newsfeeds haven’t been flooded with images and stories about tear gas, demonstrations and arrests.

Read More

Topics: Digital Media, Internet Activities, News Audience Trends and Attitudes, Social Media, Social Networking

Aug 25, 2014 7:00 am

In search of libertarians

FT_who-is-libertarianThe question of whether libertarianism is gaining public support has received increased attention, with talk of a Rand Paul run for president and a recent New York Times magazine story asking if the “Libertarian Moment” has finally arrived. But if it has, there are still many Americans who do not have a clear sense of what “libertarian” means, and our surveys find that, on many issues, the views among people who call themselves libertarian do not differ much from those of the overall public.

About one-in-ten Americans (11%) describe themselves as libertarian and know what the term means. Respondents were asked whether the term “libertarian” describes them well and — in a separate multiple-choice question — asked for the definition of “someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government”; 57% correctly answered the multiple-choice question, choosing “libertarian” from a list that included “progressive,” “authoritarian,” “Unitarian” and “communist.” On the self-description question 14% said they were libertarian. For the purpose of this analysis we focus on the 11% who both say they are libertarian and know the definition of the term.

These findings come from the Pew Research Center’s political typology and polarization survey conducted earlier this year, as well as a recent survey of a subset of those respondents via the Pew Research Center’s new American Trends Panel, conducted April 29-May 27 among 3,243 adults.

Self-described libertarians tend to be modestly more supportive of some libertarian positions, but few of them hold consistent libertarian opinions on the role of government, foreign policy and social issues. Read More

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation, Political Typology

Aug 22, 2014 7:00 am

News companies make play for India’s growing digital market

India Online News ConsumersIndia, with its emerging economy and vast population, is becoming an attractive market for news organizations looking to grow their international audience. The Huffington Post joined a growing number of outlets expanding into the country when it recently announced partnering with The Times of India to launch HuffPost India in November.

While India has had a strong newspaper market, the country’s digital penetration lags behind that of other countries. Just 13% of Indians went online in 2012, according to International Telecommunication Union. A recent Pew Research survey found only 8% of Indians with cell phones use them to access political news.

News companies are betting on speedy growth in the digital market to replicate that of newspapers, given the potential for growth as more in India go online. Internet adoption in India is up — about three-fourths of the population own cell phones, and the country recently surpassed 100 million active Facebook users. Online news consumption is also increasing. India’s unique visitors to online news and information sites grew from 31 million in 2011 to 45 million in 2014, an increase of 45%, according to an analysis by comScore. And the government is actively trying to accelerate India’s move toward embracing digital technology.

Read More

Topics: Asia and the Pacific, News Media Sectors, Newsroom Investment and Resources