Dec 6, 2016 11:43 am

4 factors driving anti-establishment sentiment in Europe

The failure of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s constitutional reform referendum has rattled the already shaky nerves of European political elites. On the heels of Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory, the Italian verdict highlights once more the depth of public anger with the political establishment in Western nations. And with elections approaching in the Netherlands, France and Germany, many worry that 2017 could be at least as politically disruptive as 2016 has been.

Pew Research Center surveys have highlighted a variety of factors driving the anti-establishment sentiments spreading throughout much of Europe, including economic anxieties, security fears, cultural unease and a lack of confidence in political institutions.

1Europeans are pessimistic about their long-term economic future. Many are unhappy with the current state of the economy in Europe: In five of the 10 European nations we polled earlier this year, majorities described the economic situation in the country as bad. But perhaps more troublingly, Europeans have a grim view about the economic prospects for the next generation. In 2015, we asked people in 40 nations around the world whether children in their country will be better or worse off financially than their parents when they grow up. In Latin America, Africa and Asia, people tended to believe the next generation would be better off, but in the Middle East, the United States and especially in Europe, there was widespread pessimism.

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Topics: Europe, Global Balance of Power, Immigration Attitudes, International Governments and Institutions, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Issue Priorities, Terrorism, Western Europe

Dec 5, 2016 11:31 am

Many Americans are skeptical about scientific research on climate and GM foods

As public debates continue over a range of science-related topics, including climate change and the safety of eating genetically modified (GM) foods, Americans are largely skeptical about the degree to which scientists understand these two issues, whether there is scientific consensus on them, and the influences on scientists’ research.

Recent Pew Research Center studies have examined in depth what the public thinks about scientists and their research related to climate change and GM foods. These surveys found that public views of scientific experts in these two areas spring from different factors: When people think about climate scientists, their views are strongly divided by politics. When they think about scientists dealing with GM foods, their views are more closely tied to their level of science knowledge than to their politics.

Americans are largely skeptical of scientific understanding about both the causes of climate change and the effects of GM foods. Some 28% of Americans think climate scientists understand the causes of global climate change “very well”; 19% think scientists understand the health effects of GM foods “very well.”

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Topics: Energy and Environment, Health, Science and Innovation

Dec 5, 2016 6:58 am

What kinds of backgrounds do U.S. attorneys general have?

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama talks to reporters at Trump Tower in New York on Nov. 17. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
Sen. Jeff Sessions talks to reporters at Trump Tower in New York on Nov. 17. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

When President-elect Donald Trump named Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as his choice for attorney general, he settled on a candidate who very much fits the professional profile of past Justice Department leaders. Like Sessions, dozens of the 83 people who have served as U.S. attorney general previously held positions as prosecutors, elected officials and attorneys in private practice. And, like Sessions, all but four were non-Hispanic white men.

Sessions, however, stands apart from current and past attorneys general in his geographic background and education, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of biographical information from the Justice Department and other sources.

Born in Selma, he would be the first attorney general from Alabama and just the fifth from the Deep South (which we define as Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina). It bears noting that current Attorney General Loretta Lynch is also from the Deep South; she was born in North Carolina.

By contrast, more than half of all attorneys general to date (42) have come from just five states: A dozen were born in Pennsylvania, nine each were born in Massachusetts and New York, and six each were born in Maryland and Virginia.

Sessions’ education also differs from that of other attorneys general, at least recent ones. If confirmed, he would be the first attorney general since Benjamin Civiletti in 1981 not to have earned an undergraduate or law degree from an Ivy League institution. (Civiletti earned his bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and his law degree from the University of Maryland.)  Read More

Topics: Federal Government, U.S. Political Figures

Dec 2, 2016 1:13 pm

Most Americans take conflicting food studies in stride

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Is caffeine good or bad for your heart? Are there health benefits in becoming a vegetarian? What makes some fats – like the trans and saturated kinds – an unhealthy choice, while other fats are considered an essential part of healthy eating?

With a dizzying number of research studies and news stories about healthy eating, a key question arises: Are people able to make sense of these studies or does conflicting research lead to more confusion and even distrust?

A new Pew Research Center survey asked Americans a series of questions about their exposure to news about the health effects of food and found that, while a majority of Americans at least sometimes encounter conflicting news stories about this topic, most people see it as a sign of continued progress in food science. But how Americans make sense of conflicting food studies in the news depends on their own knowledge of science.

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Topics: News Audience Trends and Attitudes, News Interest, Public Knowledge, Science and Innovation

Dec 1, 2016 2:11 pm

If the U.S. had 100 people: Charting Americans’ religious beliefs and practices

About 218 million of the United States’ roughly 245 million adults say they believe in God. Such deeply personal views might seem abstract or distant when expressed as large numbers, but this is not the only way to look at religious belief in the U.S. What if we looked at our data about people’s religious beliefs and practices through a slightly different lens – that of small community, rather than a huge country?

Recently, we did just that, showing the religious affiliations of Americans by creating an imaginary 100-person town and using it as a model to show our data in a simple way. Here, we do the same to show Americans’ religious beliefs and practices.

The following six charts use data from the 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study to create a profile of American religious beliefs and practices if the country were made up of exactly 100 adults.

If the U.S. were a town of just 100 adults, 36 would attend religious services at least once a week, while 33 would go to religious services no more than monthly. Another 30 would seldom or never attend a house of worship. (Surveys that ask directly about religious attendance typically obtain higher estimates of weekly attendance than other, more indirect methods of data collection. For more discussion of this phenomenon, see “U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious.“)

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Topics: Religious Affiliation, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Dec 1, 2016 12:40 pm

Will Trump’s backing revive moribund term-limits movement?

Donald Trump’s proposal for a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress has drawn new attention to an issue that, after a burst of popularity in the early and mid-1990s, had been mostly dormant for nearly two decades.

By spring of 1995, 23 states had enacted laws or amended their state constitutions (in all but two cases by citizen initiative) to limit the terms of their federal senators and representatives, and congressional term limits enjoyed wide popular support.

But two events that year took most of the steam out of the term-limits movement. In March, the House of Representatives turned down a term-limits constitutional amendment, coming nowhere close to the two-thirds vote needed. And in May, the Supreme Court ruled that such an amendment was the only way to impose term limits, voiding all those state measures insofar as they applied to Congress. (Another term-limits amendment barely cleared a majority in a 1997 House vote, and the issue hasn’t been acted upon since.)

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling did not touch limits on state legislators that were enacted alongside the congressional ones. Today, 15 states limit how many terms their lawmakers can serve: Six impose lifetime limits of varying lengths, while nine require lawmakers to sit out after a given number of terms before they can run again. (In four other states, voter-imposed limits have been thrown out by state supreme courts on various substantive and procedural grounds; in Utah and Idaho, legislatures repealed term-limits laws directly.) Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Congress, Donald Trump, State and Local Government

Dec 1, 2016 10:01 am

Divides over food science tied to personal concerns about eating, health

The American food landscape has seen major changes over the past 20 years. Genetically modified crops now account for a significant share of the food supply and, at the same time, the public’s growing appetite for organic foods has helped them find a place in mainstream supermarkets. Meanwhile, an array of new food processing techniques have been introduced to make goods more marketable.

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that divides in public opinion over food are encapsulated by how people assess the health effects of two kinds of food: organic and genetically modified (GM) foods. Americans’ beliefs about food connect with their personal concerns about the role of food choices in their long term health and well-being.

Here are six key takeaways from the report:

1More than half (55%) of U.S. adults believe organically grown produce is healthier than conventionally grown varieties, while 41% say there is no difference between organics and conventionally grown produce. Four-in-ten Americans (40%) say that most (6%) or some (34%) of the food they eat is organic.

Meanwhile, 39% of Americans consider GM foods to be worse for a person’s health than other foods. This compares with 48% who say GM foods are no different from non-GM foods and 10% who say GM foods are better for health.  Read More

Topics: Health, Public Knowledge, Science and Innovation, Trust in Government

Nov 30, 2016 3:30 pm

Sharing chores a key to good marriage, say majority of married adults

Sharing household chores is an important part of marriage for a majority of married adults. But among those who have children, there are notable differences in perceptions of who actually does more of the work around the house.

More than half of married U.S. adults (56%) – both with and without children – say sharing household chores is “very important” to a successful marriage, according to the most recent report from Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study. That ranks behind having shared interests (64%) and a satisfying sexual relationship (61%), but ahead of having children (43%) and having adequate income (42%).

Among married adults, men are slightly more likely than women to say sharing household chores is very important to a successful marriage (63% vs. 58%). And those ages 18 to 29 (67%) and ages 30 to 49 (63%) are more likely to say sharing chores is very important, compared with 57% of those ages 50 to 64 and 56% of those 65 and older.  Read More

Topics: Family and Relationships, Household and Family Structure, Marriage and Divorce, Parenthood, Social Values

Nov 29, 2016 3:23 pm

Hillary Clinton won Latino vote but fell below 2012 support for Obama

Hillary Clinton won 66% of Latino voters on Election Day, according to updated National Election Pool exit poll data, a level of Democratic support similar to 2008, when 67% of Hispanics backed Barack Obama. However, Clinton’s share of the Latino vote was lower than in 2012, when 71% of Latinos voted to re-elect Obama.

While Clinton underperformed among Latinos compared with 2012, Republican Donald Trump won 28% of the Latino vote, a similar share to 2012, when Mitt Romney won 27%, and to 2008, when John McCain won 31%, according to exit polls. (It is important to note that the national exit poll is a survey with an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for the national result.)

On immigration issues, 68% of Hispanic voters opposed building a wall along the entire U.S. border with Mexico, compared with 46% of whites and 82% of blacks, according to NBC News exit polls. When asked about unauthorized immigrants, 78% of Hispanic voters said they should be offered a chance to apply for legal status, compared with 67% of whites and 82% of blacks. Overall, 46% of Hispanics cited the economy as the most important issue facing the country, followed by terrorism (20%), immigration (19%) and foreign policy (11%). Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Hispanic/Latino Vote, U.S. Political Parties, Voter Demographics, Voter Participation, Voting Issues

Nov 29, 2016 1:30 pm

Trump voters want to build the wall, but are more divided on other immigration questions

Voters who supported Donald Trump in the presidential election view illegal immigration as a serious problem in the U.S. and strongly favor his proposal to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico. But they are more divided on other questions, including whether to deport some or all of the nation’s estimated 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants.

About eight-in-ten Trump supporters who cast ballots or were planning to in the days leading up to the election (79%) said illegal immigration was a “very big” problem in the U.S., according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted just before Election Day. Even more (86%) said the immigration situation in the U.S. has “gotten worse” since 2008.  Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Donald Trump, Immigration, Immigration Attitudes, Migration, National Economy, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Issue Priorities, Unauthorized Immigration, Work and Employment