American, Chinese, European and Russian negotiators sit down with their Iranian counterparts in Geneva this week to try to hammer out an interim deal aimed at freezing and eventually rolling back the Iranian nuclear program, an agreement that eluded them in early November. The prospect of an accord has generated new friction between Israel and the United States. The Obama administration wants to prevent the Iranians from ever obtaining nuclear weapons. The Israeli government wants to prevent Iran from ever having the ability to build such weapons. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pressing Washington not to finalize the deal now on the table in Geneva.
American-Israeli differences on the issue in part mirror sharp differences between American and Israeli public opinion about Iran and about the seriousness of the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program. Attitudes of younger Americans toward Iran suggest these differences may even grow over time. Read More →
Topics: Middle East and North Africa
A new report from the World Economic Forum ranks the 10 most important global trends, based on a poll of 1,592 leaders from academia, business, government, and non-profits.
Here are some data points that compare and contrast the public’s views around the world with the trends identified by the experts.
1. Rising societal tensions in the Middle East and North Africa – People in this region were mostly dissatisfied with their country direction, according to the Pew Research Center’s survey of people across the globe this year. This includes particular disappointment in Lebanon (88% dissatisfied), the Palestinian territories (87%) and Tunisia (81%).
2. Widening income disparities – One of the most striking findings from our recent survey of general publics across the globe was the degree to which people see the gap between rich and poor as a major challenge. In 31 of 39 nations, half or more of those polled said inequality is a very big problem in their country. Read More →
A pair of suicide bombings today struck near the Iranian Embassy in Lebanon, the latest violence in a country where concerns have run high about Iran’s influence and the spillover of violence from the civil war in Syria.
About seven-in-ten (68%) people in Lebanon said that they were very concerned the violence in Syria would spread to their country, and another 27% were somewhat concerned, according to a Pew Research Center survey last March. Those fears of spreading violence were shared by six-in-ten or more Lebanese Shia and Sunni Muslims, who often find themselves in conflict.
Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, who are both Shia powers in the region, have openly supported Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country’s civil war. Hezbollah’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said last week that his group would keep fighting in Syria as long as necessary.
Last week, Google released a new advertisement that tells an emotional story of two childhood friends separated in 1947 as Hindus mass migrated from Pakistan to India, and Muslims left India for Pakistan. Decades later, the friends are reunited with the help of their grandchildren and Google. Produced in the form of a short film, the ad has gone viral in the two countries with more than 4 million views.
The feel-good ad may be surprising to Western viewers, who are likely familiar with the two nations’ antagonistic relationship. Read More →
Topics: Asia and the Pacific
Former Vice President Dick Cheney waded into a public dispute between his daughters on Monday, highlighting the debate in the Republican party over same-sex marriage.
The dispute began when daughter Liz Cheney, who is running for a Wyoming Senate seat, said she would not change her position on same-sex marriage despite her sister Mary’s marriage to a woman, saying “I believe in the traditional definition of marriage.” Mary responded, saying her sister was “on the wrong side of history.” Read More →
Today is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, his speech about a war that more than half of Americans say is still relevant to modern day U.S. politics.
Four and a half months after the pivotal battle at Gettysburg, a Union victory achieved at a high cost of life on both sides, President Lincoln came to the battlefield on Nov. 19, 1863 to dedicate a cemetery to those who died there. His remarks of a little over two minutes are considered to be among the great speeches delivered by an American leader.
When the country marked the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War in 2011, a Pew Research Center survey found that 56% of Americans still looked on the war as relevant to American politics and political life. About four-in-ten (39%) regarded it as important historically, but with little political relevance today.
About half (48%) of Americans believe the main cause of the war as mainly about states’ rights, while 38% said it was mainly about slavery. Another 9% said both were main reasons.
One legacy of the Civil War that had echoed in American politics into this century was the controversy over the display of the Confederate flag. In South Carolina, the official display of the flag atop the State House was a source of heated political and racial controversy for years. In 2000, a compromise was reached in which the flag was removed from the capitol and a similar flag was raised at the South Carolina Confederate Solider Monument on the State House grounds.
Three-in-ten Americans said they had a negative reaction when they saw a Confederate flag displayed while 9% had a positive reaction. About six-in-ten (58%) said they had neither a positive or negative reaction.
Category: Daily Number
About half of all Americans own stocks, either directly or indirectly.
The stock markets have been on a tear this year, epitomized today by both the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 index hitting round-number milestones. The Dow crossed 16,000 and is up about 22% this year; the S&P briefly popped above 1,800 and, though it’s slipped back below that level, is still up about 26% for the year. But only about half of Americans — especially those who tend to be white, wealthy and more educated — will see any benefit from surging stocks.
Gallup’s annual economy and finance survey, conducted in April, found 52% of Americans saying they owned stock, either directly or through a mutual fund, retirement account or other investment vehicle. The ownership share dropped sharply after the 2007-08 financial crisis and has continued falling throughout the nation’s wobbly recovery. (A Pew Research Center survey conducted in March found a somewhat lower ownership share — only 45% of Americans in that survey said they had money in the market.)
Our survey found that stock ownership was sharply differentiated by age, race and socioeconomic status: More than half (55%) of whites, for instance, said they were invested in stocks, compared with 28% of blacks and 17% of Hispanics. 77% of college graduates reported being invested in stocks (versus less than half of non-graduates), and 80% of people with incomes of $75,000 or more, compared with 55% of people with incomes of $30,000 to $75,000 and just 15% of people with incomes below $30,000.
Category: Daily Number
Topics: Economics and Personal Finances
The Federal Reserve Act gives the nation’s central bank two main tasks: maximize employment and maintain long-term price stability. While both are worthy goals, economists have known for a while that achieving both low inflation and maximum employment simultaneously is, at best, difficult (the relationship is a lot more complicated than the simple tradeoff often cited in the media).
The complex interplay between the Fed’s dual mandates is well captured in the spaghetti-bowl swirls of this New York Times chart, which covers more than eight decades of U.S. economic history. The twisting line traces average annual unemployment and core inflation (the Fed’s preferred measure, which excludes volatile food and energy categories) for each year since the onset of the Great Depression.
During the stagflation of the 1970s, unemployment and inflation both rose sharply; inflation remained high even after unemployment began to fall. During the 1990s boom, inflation and unemployment both fell, which few economists at the time thought possible. And in the ongoing recovery from the Great Recession, inflation has remained at exceptionally low levels while unemployment has slowly fallen.
The Times chart includes comments that President Obama’s Fed chairman nominee, Janet Yellen, has made in speeches and meetings on the Fed’s past actions. Should Yellen be confirmed, she’ll face the same challenge that has bedeviled Bernanke: How to use the tools of monetary policy to get the U.S. economy out of low gear without also setting off uncontrolled inflation.
Category: Chart of the Week
Topics: National Economy
The Chinese government on Friday said it would relax its decades-old one-child policy, which has led to one of the most skewed sex ratios at birth in the world. Boys naturally outnumber girls at birth (by about 107 to 100 globally), but in China there are about 118 boys born for every 100 girls born today.
Sex-selective abortion is likely a big factor explaining the high share of baby boys born. The high sex ratio may also relate to reporting practices — it may be the case that parents don’t report the births of some baby girls to the government, in the hopes that they can “try again” and have a boy.
While son preference remains a strong cultural norm in China, it will be interesting to see if the loosening of the one-child policy will lead to an increasing share of baby girls in the country. Read More →
Number of states that ban texting while driving.
It can be an irresistible temptation: You’re in the car and can’t remember where you’re supposed to meet your friends, so you grab your smartphone and send them a quick text. Or you’re bored on a long highway trip and decide to scroll through Facebook with one hand while keeping the other on the wheel.
However, most states flatly ban the practice, according to distraction.gov, the “official U.S. government website for distracted driving.” In all but four of those states, texting while driving is a primary offense, meaning you can get pulled over and ticketed simply for that alone; in Florida, Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio, you can get ticketed for texting only if you were pulled over for some other offense, such as speeding. (By comparison, only 12 states, along with Washington, D.C., ban all drivers from using handheld mobile phones.)
The number of people killed in distraction-related crashes fell slightly last year, to 3,328 from 3,360 in 2011, according to a report Thursday from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But the estimated number of people injured in distraction-related crashes rose 9%, to 421,000.
In a 2010 Pew Research Center survey, nearly half (47%) of adults who use text messaging (equivalent to 27% of all U.S. adults) said they had sent or received messages while driving. A 2009 survey found that 26% of 16- and 17-year-olds admitted to texting while behind the wheel.
Category: Daily Number