Dec 8, 2016 3:15 pm

Republicans, Democrats find common ground on many provisions of health care law

The Affordable Care Act has drawn mixed reviews from the U.S. public since it became law in 2010, and a new Pew Research Center survey finds that Americans remain split in their opinions about the law and its future. But while President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal the health care law, individual provisions are broadly popular, even across partisan lines.

Overall, Americans are evenly divided in their views of the ACA: 48% approve of it while 47% disapprove, according to the survey, conducted Nov. 30 to Dec. 5. Views of the law remain largely divided by party, as they have been since 2009, even before the law was enacted. Today about three-quarters (73%) of Democrats approve of the law, while 85% of Republicans disapprove. Independents are roughly as likely to approve (52%) as disapprove (45%), though independent views of the law have grown more positive in the wake of the election.

Americans are also split over what Congress should do with the law next. Overall, 39% say the law should be repealed, while as many (also 39%) say it should be expanded. Just 15% say it should be left as-is. Not surprisingly, Democrats and Republicans also disagree on this question: About half of Democrats (53%) say Congress should expand it, while 76% of Republicans would like to see it repealed.  Read More

Topics: Health Care, Domestic Affairs and Policy, Political Party Affiliation, Political Issue Priorities, Political Polarization, 2016 Election

Dec 8, 2016 12:41 pm

GOP gained ground in middle-class communities in 2016

Republican candidate for vice president Mike Pence campaigns in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 6, 2016. Photo credit: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Then-GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence campaigns in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 6, 2016. Photo credit: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The Republican Party made deep inroads into America’s middle-class communities in 2016. Although many middle-class areas voted for Barack Obama in 2008, they overwhelmingly favored Donald Trump in 2016, a shift that was a key to his victory. Meanwhile, Democrats had more success retaining a loose “coalition” of lower-income and upper-income communities.

These findings emerge from a new Pew Research Center analysis that correlates how counties voted with the Center’s estimates of the size of the middle class in U.S. metropolitan areas. Post-election reporting has covered the role of white working-class or college-educated voters in the election, but this analysis focuses on how the middle class shifted allegiance over the course of Obama’s two terms as president.

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Topics: Income, U.S. Political Parties, Voter Participation, Population Geography, Voter Demographics, Political Polarization, 2016 Election

Dec 7, 2016 11:31 am

Younger generations stand out in their beliefs about organic, GM foods

There are many divides among Americans when it comes to their views and practices about food, but one of the biggest is the generation gap in attitudes about organic produce and genetically modified foods. Younger adults are more likely than older adults to think organic foods are better for their health and to believe GM foods are worse.

About six-in-ten U.S. adults younger than 30 (61%) say that organic produce is better for health than conventionally grown varieties, as do 57% of those ages 30 to 49. In contrast, 45% of seniors (those ages 65 and older) say organic produce is healthier, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

At the same time, younger adults are more inclined to believe that genetically modified (GM) foods are worse for health than non-GM options. Some 48% of those ages 18 to 29 say foods with GM ingredients are worse for one’s health than foods with no GM ingredients. About three-in-ten adults 65 and older (29%) think GM foods are worse for one’s health.

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Topics: Generations and Age, Health, Science and Innovation

Dec 6, 2016 1:00 pm

Just 10 states resettled more than half of recent refugees to U.S.

Syrian refugees take notes during their Vocational ESL class at the International Rescue Committee center in San Diego on August 31, 2016. Seated from left to right are: Rawa Hawara and Sousan Alziat. The United States has taken in10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016 as part of a resettlement program that has emerged as a hot-button issue in the US presidential campaign. / AFP / Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian refugees Rawa Hawara and Sousan Alziat take notes during their vocational ESL class at the International Rescue Committee center in San Diego in August. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees in fiscal year 2016, the most since 1999. But where they settled varied widely, with some states taking in large numbers and others very few, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. State Department data.

California, Texas and New York resettled the most refugees in fiscal 2016 (which began on Oct. 1, 2015, and ended Sept. 30, 2016), together taking in 20,738 refugees, or about a quarter (24%) of the U.S. total. Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina, Washington, Pennsylvania and Illinois, which each received 3,000 or more refugees, rounded out the top 10 states by number of resettled refugees. Overall, 54% of refugees admitted to the U.S. in 2016 were resettled in one of these 10 states.

At the other end of the spectrum, some states and the District of Columbia took in few or no refugees in fiscal 2016. Arkansas, the District of Columbia and Wyoming resettled fewer than 10 refugees each, while two states – Delaware and Hawaii – took in none.  Read More

Topics: Immigration, Wars and International Conflicts, Domestic Affairs and Policy, International Governments and Institutions, Foreign Affairs and Policy, Migration

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

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

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