Nov 4, 2014 3:52 pm

Why measuring the demographics of voters on Election Day is difficult

One of the big questions about any election, including this year’s midterm, is who turned out to vote and who did not. Pollsters, journalists and politicians carefully want to examine the racial and ethnic demographics of the electorate. For example, how many Latinos voted? How many blacks and whites voted, and how do those shares compare with turnout in previous elections?

These questions aren’t easy to answer because the two primary sources that provide insight into voter demographics — the National Election Pool’s Exit Poll and the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey — use different methodologies, are released at different times, and often produce slightly different results. Read More

Topics: 2014 Election, Hispanic/Latino Vote, Research Methodology

Nov 4, 2014 11:12 am

No matter how tight the race, midterm voter turnout likely to remain lackluster

For all of the money spent on this year’s midterm elections — $3.67 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics — less than half of eligible voters will actually cast ballots in the nation’s 435 House districts, if history is any guide.

House Election TurnoutPolitical scientists (and practical politicians) long have recognized that voter turnout surges in presidential election years and falls off in midterm elections. In the 2008 presidential election, for example, nearly 59% of estimated eligible voters voted in that year’s House elections. Two years later for the midterms, only about 41% of eligible voters went to the polls. (We estimated eligible voters in each district from 2006 through 2012 using data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, and obtained vote totals for every House race from the House Clerk’s office. Our analysis excluded a handful of races in which unopposed candidates weren’t listed on the ballot.)

You might think there’d be some relationship between how competitive a given election is and turnout. A race where victory could go either way might spur more interest and rev up get-out-the-vote efforts from both sides; a race where one candidate is a prohibitive favorite could lead many people to conclude there’s no point in heading out to vote. But our analysis shows little, if any, correlation between a House election’s competitiveness (measured by the winner’s victory margin) and turnout. Read More

Topics: 2014 Election, Congress

Nov 4, 2014 7:00 am

6 facts about the electorate on midterm day

All through this year, we have been tracking the mood and opinions of the general public and those who have registered or are likely to vote, and that has added up to this snapshot of the 2014 electorate, which we’ve boiled down to six facts.

Despite improvement in the economy, few Americans give it high marks or expect it to improve much in the next year.1Even though the unemployment rate has fallen sharply since the 2010 midterm elections and a host of other economic measures have improved significantly, it has not done much to brighten the public’s mood on what it considers to be the most important voting issue. While the economy gets better marks than in the last two elections, that isn’t saying much. Just 21% of Americans rated the economy as excellent or good in a mid-October survey (compared with 13% in September 2012 and 8% in October 2010). And, in this election cycle, fewer Americans expect continued improvement with just 27% believing economic conditions will be better a year from now.

More voters see midterm ballot as a vote against Obama than for him.2President Obama is a negative factor for many voters. In our survey last month, 32% of registered voters said they thought of their vote for Congress as a vote against Obama, while 20% saw it as a vote for Obama. The rest said Obama would not be a factor in their decision. Obama has even lost ground among fellow Democrats. About four-in-ten (38%) voters who plan to support the Democratic candidate in the congressional elections said they considered their vote a vote “for” Obama, down from 53% in the 2010 midterms.

Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: 2014 Election, Barack Obama, Elections and Campaigns, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation, U.S. Political Parties

Nov 3, 2014 12:29 pm

For most voters, congressional elections offer little drama

On Election Day, can’t you just smell the excitement in the air? Actually, you probably can’t: An overwhelming majority of voters live in congressional districts with little real competition, and a handful without any at all.

FT_14.10.31_competitiveHouse_4Pew Research Center report last week used ratings and analyses by such sources as the Cook Political Report and Real Clear Politics to estimate that there are only 14 truly competitive House elections this year. But the ratings are only predictions, and if history is any guide several more House races will turn out closer than expected. In 2012, for instance, 29 House candidates won by less than 5 percentage points over their closest rival; another 34 won by at least five but fewer than 10 percentage points. Still, that’s only 63 races out of 435 House districts, representing around 15% of eligible voters. Read More

Topics: 2014 Election, Congress

Nov 3, 2014 7:00 am

Berlin Wall’s fall marked the end of the Cold War for the American public

Fall of Berlin Wall
People gather near a part of the Berlin Wall that has been broken down after the communist German Democratic Republic’s (GDR) decision to open borders between East and West Berlin, circa November 1989. (Photo by Carol Guzy/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

News of the fall of the Berlin Wall had a dramatic impact on American public opinion 25 years ago. Although it was clear that major changes were going on in the Soviet Union even before then, the wall coming down between East and West Berlin drove home in a very dramatic and convincing way to Americans that the communist world was coming undone.

No less than 82% of the public paid close attention to news about the opening of the Berlin Wall between East and West Germany. And as many as 50% paid very close attention to this story, according to an early November 1989 nationwide survey conducted by Gallup/Times Mirror. This is one of the highest levels of closely following a foreign story not directly involving the U.S. in all of the news interest measures taken by Center for the People & the Press before or since.    Read More

Topics: Communism, Eastern Europe, Foreign Affairs and Policy

Oct 31, 2014 10:20 am

The Turkish people don’t look favorably upon the U.S., or any other country, really

Turks Views of U.S.As U.S. and Western-led airstrikes continue to target Islamic State fighters for control of the Syrian-Turkish border town of Kobane, questions have been raised about the U.S. and Turkey’s 60-year alliance. But even prior to the Islamic State’s push there, Turks have held decidedly negative views of the U.S. going back over a decade, and, additionally, do not much like other foreign powers either.

Since we began polling the Turkish people in 2002, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, never have more than three-in-ten said they have a favorable view of the U.S. But anti-Americanism really spiked in the aftermath of the 2003 Iraq War, when 83% of Turks held a negative view of America. Today, only 19% in Turkey like the U.S., while nearly three-quarters (73%) share a dislike of their NATO ally. (Unfortunately, we do not have comparable data for American views of Turkey).  Read More

Topics: Middle East and North Africa, U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism

Oct 31, 2014 7:00 am

Interest in midterms may be low, but local TV awash in political ad spending

Local TV stations profit from political advertising dollars during the midterm election season.The upcoming midterm elections might be underwhelming for many Americans, but it could shape up to be one of the most profitable for local TV stations – one of the sources Americans turn to most for news about politics. Local TV has been receiving the largest portion of political media spending for at least a decade, but the share it consumes and the total dollars reaped continue to grow.

Through mid-October, local TV stations have captured 95% of the television political ad spending, which includes spot, national cable, national network broadcast (local cable political ad spending is not part of this analysis). In 2012, during the last presidential elections, local TV stations captured 92% of total political TV ad spending, based on the same analysis.

Read More

Topics: Media Economics, News Media Sectors, Television

Oct 30, 2014 1:21 pm

5 facts about evolution and religion


Are faith and belief in evolution necessarily at odds? According to Pope Francis, the answer is no. Indeed, the pope recently reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church’s view that “evolution in nature is not inconsistent” with church teaching on creation, pushing the debate on human origins back into the news.

Although most U.S. Catholics accept the idea of evolution in some form, a substantial percentage of American adults reject the scientific explanation for the origins of human life, and a number of religious groups in the U.S. maintain that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection is not correct because it conflicts with their views of creation. Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Evolution, Religion and Society

Oct 30, 2014 10:00 am

When it comes to happiness, money matters

The Great Recession created some clear winners and losers. Advanced economies’ growth rates tanked after 2007, while many emerging and developing markets’ economies continued to soar. This divergence in fortunes has had a major impact on whether people in these countries are satisfied with their lives today and optimistic about the years ahead.

Here are five takeaways from a new Pew Research Center report from its 43-nation survey on life satisfaction around the world.

1 On average, richer countries are happier, but only up to a point. As GDP per capita increases in a country, so does the percentage of people who rate their life at seven or higher on a ladder where 0 represents the worst possible life and 10 represents the best possible life. But, among richer nations, the increase in happiness due to higher incomes tends to taper off. For example, a majority of Malaysians (56%) rate their life at seven or higher, considerably more than the much poorer Bangladeshis (34%). However, Germans (60%) – who are far richer than Malaysians – are only somewhat more satisfied with their current life situation.

Read More

Topics: Economic Recession, Economics and Personal Finances, Globalization and Trade, World Economies

Oct 30, 2014 9:45 am

Which news organization is the most trusted? The answer is complicated.

Our recent report, Political Polarization and Media Habits, finds that trust and distrust in the news media varies greatly by political ideology. Many readers asked us: Among the 36 news organizations we asked about, which one do Americans trust most? The answer is more complex than it may seem and can be measured in a number of different ways. Here’s a breakdown:

1Trust of News SourcesThe full population picture doesn’t tell the whole story. If you look simply at the total percentage of online adults who say they trust a news organization for news about government and politics, several mainstream television outlets rise to the top. CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox News are all trusted by more than four-in-ten web-using U.S. adults. These high numbers, though, are intertwined with the fact that more than nine-in-ten respondents have heard of these five news sources. Trust and distrust were only asked of sources respondents had heard of, thus, the better known a source is, the more Americans in total who can voice trust or distrust of that source. A source like The Economist, on the other hand, is known by just 34% of respondents and so could never have a trust level exceeding 34% — even if everyone who had heard of it trusted it.  Read More

Topics: News Audience Trends and Attitudes, News Sources, Newspapers