Nov 28, 2017 6:59 am

Americans are split on the principle of pre-emptive military force

As rhetoric between the United States and North Korea has grown increasingly hostile in recent months, Americans are divided over the use of pre-emptive military force to attack countries that threaten the U.S.

Half say using military force against countries that may seriously threaten the U.S. – but have not attacked it – can often (12%) or sometimes (38%) be justified, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in October. About as many (48%) say such pre-emptive use of military force can rarely (28%) or never (20%) be justified.

A recent report by the Center found that the share of Americans who see North Korea’s nuclear program as a major threat to the U.S. is as high as at any point since 2005. A separate report found that growing shares of Americans think the regime in Pyongyang is capable of hitting the U.S. with a nuclear missile and willing to follow through on threats to do so.

Today, the public is somewhat more likely to express reservations about the use of pre-emptive force than it was eight years ago, when Pew Research Center last asked the question. In November 2009, during President Barack Obama’s first year in office and amid debate about drawing down U.S. troop levels in Iraq, 52% of Americans said the use of pre-emptive military force by the U.S. was sometimes or often justified, compared with 41% who said it was rarely or never justified (8% did not offer a view). The share who say pre-emptive military force is rarely or never justified is up 7 percentage points from 2009.

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Topics: Wars and International Conflicts, U.S. Political Parties, Military and Veterans, Foreign Affairs and Policy, Political Polarization

Nov 27, 2017 6:59 am

Views of transgender issues divide along religious lines

The American public is sharply divided along religious lines over whether it is possible for someone to be a gender different from their sex at birth, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

Most Christians in the United States (63%) say that whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by their sex at birth. Among religious “nones” – those who identify religiously as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – about six-in-ten (62%) say they think a person’s gender is not necessarily determined by the sex they are assigned at birth.

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Topics: Gender, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Nov 20, 2017 11:00 am

New foreign student enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities doubled since Great Recession

Nearly 364,000 foreign students with F-1 visas were newly enrolled at a U.S. college or university in 2016, double the number at the outset of the Great Recession, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data obtained through a public records request.

From 2008 to 2016, the number of new foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities increased 104% – far outpacing overall college enrollment growth, which was 3.4% during the same period, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The increase was most pronounced at public colleges and universities, which faced budget cuts during the Great Recession and began to rely more heavily on tuition from foreign students.

In the years immediately preceding the Great Recession, growth in the number of new foreign students was more modest, increasing by 20% from 2004 to 2007, but still outpaced overall U.S. enrollment, which rose 7.2% over the same period.

Below are some key facts about foreign students studying in the United States. You can also explore the demographic characteristics of international students who pursued associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from 2004 to 2016 with our new foreign student fact sheet.

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Topics: Education, Immigration, Foreign Affairs and Policy

Nov 17, 2017 12:36 pm

Despite apparent coup in Zimbabwe, armed takeovers have become less common worldwide

Zimbabwean soldiers stand at an intersection as they regulate traffic in Harare on Nov. 15, 2017. Generals denied that the military had staged a coup but vowed on state television to target "criminals" close to President Robert Mugabe. (AFP/Getty Images)
Zimbabwean soldiers in Harare, the nation’s capital, on Nov. 15. Generals there denied that the military had staged a coup but vowed on state television to target “criminals” close to President Robert Mugabe. (AFP/Getty Images)

This week’s apparent coup d’etat in Zimbabwe may bring an end to the 37-year-long rule of President Robert Mugabe. It’s the first such seizure of power globally in three years – a reminder of how much rarer coups have become as methods of regime change.

Since the end of World War II, there have been 225 successful coups (counting the events in Zimbabwe) in countries with populations greater than 500,000, according to the Center for Systemic Peace, which maintains extensive datasets on various forms of armed conflict and political violence. Most coups occurred during the height of the Cold War, from the 1960s through the 1980s.

The center defines a coup as “a forceful seizure of executive authority and office by a dissident/opposition faction within the country’s ruling or political elites that results in a substantial change in the executive leadership and the policies of the prior regime, although not necessarily in the nature of regime authority or mode of governance.” It distinguishes coups from other forms of forcible regime change, such as revolutions, civil wars and foreign interventions.

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Topics: Protests and Uprisings, Wars and International Conflicts, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa

Nov 16, 2017 11:30 am

What Americans expect the future of automation to look like

An October Pew Research Center report examined Americans’ views about automation, including their opinions on how widespread these technologies would become over the next 20 years. Here’s what Americans expect to happen when it comes to four specific types of automation.

Computer programs will diagnose and treat most diseases

As medical records migrate online, algorithms may become more integrated into patient care. Some hospitals are already using computers to help diagnose certain diseases or update physicians about a patient’s condition.

While there have been some notable challenges in using this type of technology in medicine, most Americans predict it to be the norm in the coming decades. Roughly eight-in-ten U.S. adults (79%) say that in the next 20 years doctors will use computer programs to diagnose and treat most diseases, including 21% who say this will definitely happen.

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Topics: Science and Innovation, Technology Adoption, Emerging Technology Impacts

Nov 15, 2017 1:03 pm

Assaults against Muslims in U.S. surpass 2001 level

The number of assaults against Muslims in the United States rose significantly between 2015 and 2016, easily surpassing the modern peak reached in 2001, the year of the September 11 terrorist attacks, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new hate crimes statistics from the FBI. In 2016, there were 127 reported victims of aggravated or simple assault, compared with 91 the year before and 93 in 2001.

But assaults are not the only form of hate crime carried out against Muslims and other religious groups. The most common is intimidation, which is defined as reasonable fear of bodily harm. Anti-Muslim intimidation also increased in 2016, with 144 reported victims, compared with 120 the previous year. These numbers, however, are still dwarfed by the 296 victims of anti-Muslim intimidation in 2001.

Certain types of crimes that damage or destroy property, including vandalism, also have risen, from 70 cases against Muslims in 2015 to 92 last year.

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Topics: Religious Affiliation, Social Values, Muslims and Islam, Muslim Americans, Discrimination and Prejudice

Nov 15, 2017 10:00 am

Prescription drug abuse increasingly seen as a major U.S. public health problem

Americans’ concerns about prescription drug abuse have risen over the past four years, with some of largest increases coming among well-educated adults.

Today, 76% of the public says that prescription drug abuse is an extremely or very serious public health problem in America, compared with 63% who said the same in 2013. Just 22% regard prescription drug abuse as a somewhat serious or less serious problem, down from 34% in 2013.

Concerns about mental illness are also up slightly from 2013. Currently, 72% say mental illness is an extremely or very serious public health problem, compared with 67% who said this four years ago, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Oct. 25-30 among 1,504 adults.

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Topics: Health, Drugs

Nov 14, 2017 6:58 am

Q&A: A closer look at Orthodox Christians

Along with Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity is one of the world’s three major Christian traditions. But unlike the other two large branches of Christianity, which have spread throughout the developing world, Orthodoxy remains largely confined to Europe.

Many majority-Orthodox countries, like Russia and Ukraine, were part of the former Soviet Union and, for most of the 20th century, were officially hostile to religion. In the more than 25 years since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, there has been an Orthodox revival in several of these countries. But many people who now identify as Orthodox Christians do not see religion as an important part of their lives, according to a new Pew Research Center report. And, particularly in former Soviet republics, many also report low levels of religious observance, such as church attendance or daily prayer.

Recently, we sat down with George Demacopolous, a professor of theology at Fordham University, to examine trends and issues in the Orthodox Christian world. Demacopolous is a noted expert on Orthodox Christian history and the author and editor of six books.

Russia is the world’s largest Orthodox country and the leader of its church is seen by many outside the country as the faith’s highest authority. Aside from its size, what, if anything, makes Russia and the Russian church special in the Orthodox world?

George Demacopolous, professor of theology, Fordham University
George Demacopolous, professor of theology, Fordham University

The Russian Orthodox Church has no theological claim to global leadership. Instead, the significance of the Moscow Patriarchate in the minds of Orthodox Christians is linked to the geopolitical significance of the Russian state. And it is especially linked to the way that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has embraced Orthodox Christianity as the single most distinctive feature of Russia’s cultural heritage, which he believes extends beyond the borders of Russia itself.

Putin – and by extension the Russian Orthodox Church – are popular among many non-Russian Orthodox because he has increasingly positioned the Russian government as the lone political protector of Christians in the Middle East. Moreover, he and the patriarch of Moscow are increasingly contrasting the language of “traditional values” with the secular ideologies prevalent in Western Europe and the United States. Thus, many Orthodox Christians living outside of Russia see a powerful Russia with a resurgent Orthodox Church as a positive for global Orthodoxy.

The link between Russia’s political power and the perception of the Moscow Patriarchate’s global leadership are all the more apparent when we contrast it to the situation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who is the canonical leader of the Orthodox world but who suffers under constant harassment from the Turkish government and who has little real geopolitical authority.

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Topics: Religious Affiliation, Christians and Christianity

Nov 13, 2017 6:58 am

Americans generally positive about NAFTA, but most Republicans say it benefits Mexico more than U.S.

As Mexico prepares to host the fifth round of negotiations over the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), most Americans (56%) say that the pact is good for the United States, while just a third (33%) say it is bad.

And while President Donald Trump has raised questions about the fairness of the agreement, relatively few say that Mexico (30%) or Canada (20%) benefit more from the agreement than the U.S. does, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Oct. 25-30 among 1,504 adults.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the trade pact is bad for the U.S. and that it has benefited Mexico, in particular, more than the U.S. In recent years, partisans have moved apart in their assessments of free trade agreements generally as Republicans have grown more negative in their views, and opinions about NAFTA today reflect this partisan dynamic.

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Topics: Globalization and Trade, North America, Mexico

Nov 10, 2017 11:30 am

The changing face of America’s veteran population

Gavin Kinney, left, and his brother Rigel hold up a sign at the New York City Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11, 2015. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Gavin Kinney, left, and his brother Rigel hold up a sign at the New York City Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11, 2015. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

There were around 20.4 million U.S. veterans in 2016, according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, representing less than 10% of the total U.S. adult population. As Americans observe Veterans Day, here are key facts about those who have served in the military and how this population is changing.

1Gulf War-era veterans now account for the largest share of all U.S. veterans, surpassing Vietnam-era veterans in 2016, according to Veterans Affairs’ 2016 population model estimates. As of last year, there were 6.8 million American veterans who served during the Vietnam era and 7.1 million who served in the Gulf War era, which spans from August 1990 through the present. (Some veterans served through both eras.) There were also around 771,000 World War II veterans and 1.6 million who served during the Korean conflict, the VA estimates. About three-quarters (77%) of veterans in 2016 served during wartime and 23% only served during peacetime.

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Topics: Military and Veterans