Oct 5, 2016 9:00 am

U.S. admits record number of Muslim refugees in 2016

A total of 38,901 Muslim refugees entered the U.S. in fiscal year 2016, making up almost half (46%) of the nearly 85,000 refugees who entered the country in that period, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center. That means the U.S. has admitted the highest number of Muslim refugees of any year since data on self-reported religious affiliations first became publicly available in 2002.

Almost the same number of Christian (37,521) as Muslim refugees were admitted in fiscal 2016, which ended Sept. 30. A slightly lower share of 2016’s refugees were Christian (44%) than Muslim, the first time that has happened since fiscal 2006, when a large number of Somali refugees entered the U.S.

People seeking to enter the U.S. as refugees are processed overseas. As part of the process, they are asked a series of questions, including their religious affiliation. When their applications are approved, refugees travel to the U.S. to be resettled by nonprofit groups associated with the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Refugees to the U.S. are different from asylum seekers, who claim asylum after already being in the U.S. or crossing into the U.S. via an airport or land border.

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Topics: Asia and the Pacific, Christians and Christianity, Middle East and North Africa, Migration, Muslims and Islam, Religious Affiliation

Oct 4, 2016 2:45 pm

Deep divides between, within parties on public debates about LGBT issues

Over the last few years, contentious public debates have emerged on issues involving religious liberty, traditional values and civil rights for LGBT people, including whether wedding-related businesses should be required to provide their services to same-sex couples, and – more recently – over the use of public restrooms by transgender people.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) could face questions about these issues in the vice presidential debate tonight. Pence, a Republican, signed a state law in 2015 that provides a legal defense for business owners who deny services to LGBT couples on religious grounds.

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Topics: 2016 Election, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Gender, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Polarization, Religion and Government, Religion and U.S. Politics, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Oct 4, 2016 12:52 pm

Federal officials may revamp how Americans identify race, ethnicity on census and other forms

Federal officials are moving ahead with the most important potential changes in two decades in how the government asks Americans about their racial and Hispanic identity. They include combining separate race and Hispanic questions into one and adding a new Middle East-North Africa category.

If approved by the Office of Management and Budget, the revisions would be made on the 2020 census questionnaire and other federal government surveys or forms. Federal statistics about race and Hispanic identity are used to enforce civil rights laws, assist in political redistricting and provide data for research that compares the status of different groups.

The changes would be intended to improve the accuracy and reliability of race and ethnicity data by making it easier for people to answer questions about their identity, according to federal officials. Many people, especially Hispanics, Arabs and people of multiple origins, are unsure about how to categorize themselves on census questionnaires and other federal forms.

The potential changes were published Sept. 30 by the Office of Management and Budget, which sets the standards for how federal agencies collect and publish race and ethnicity data, for 30 days of public comment. The agency will publish another notice of the results of its study and possible recommendations for change, and will seek more comments. The Census Bureau recently concluded a major test of possible revisions on its questionnaires and has begun briefing advisory groups and advocates on the results.

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Topics: Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Hispanic/Latino Identity, Population Trends, Race and Ethnicity, U.S. Census

Oct 4, 2016 10:10 am

Conservative Republicans especially skeptical of climate scientists’ research and understanding

Americans at both ends of the political spectrum are polarized on climate issues, and their differences extend to how well they think climate scientists understand climate change, how much they can trust information from them and what they think influences their research.

Conservative Republicans are especially skeptical of how well climate scientists understand climate change and are particularly likely to distrust information from them, according to a new Pew Research Center report. They also are among the most dubious about the influences on and motives behind climate research. Those in other political groups, including moderate and liberal Republicans, are far less skeptical and distrusting.

These are some of our key findings about the views of conservative Republicans:

Many conservative Republicans have a negative view of scientists’ understanding of climate change. Majorities of conservative Republicans say climate scientists have little or no understanding of the causes of climate change or ways to address it. In comparison, majorities of the other political groups, including moderate and liberal Republicans, say climate scientists understand the causes of climate change and ways to address it very or fairly well.

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Topics: Domestic Affairs and Policy, Energy and Environment, Political Party Affiliation, Science and Innovation, U.S. Political Parties

Oct 3, 2016 10:20 am

Smartphones help those without broadband get online, but don’t necessarily bridge the digital divide

Courts and regulators have increasingly seen high-speed internet as a public utility that is as essential to Americans as electricity and water. But many Americans still do not have broadband at home, and some Americans have turned to mobile devices as their primary gateway to the internet, according to Pew Research Center surveys.

But whether smartphones are an adequate substitute is open to question. Those who depend on their smartphones to go online encounter constraints with data caps and small screens, and the device is not their “go to” tool for personal learning at home.

Instead, those with smartphones but not home broadband rely on a kind of “workaround ecosystem” that is a combination of using their mobile devices along with other resources such as computers and Wi-Fi available at public libraries.

A third of American adults do not have high-speed internet at home, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, and slightly more Americans were without broadband at home in 2015 than in 2013.

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Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Future of the Internet, Internet Activities, Mobile, Technology Adoption

Oct 3, 2016 7:01 am

Americans are divided over which public bathrooms transgender people should use

As the visibility of transgender Americans has increased in recent years, it has been accompanied by a contentious political debate over the rights of the estimated 0.6% of U.S. adults who identify as transgender – in particular, which public restrooms they should legally be allowed to enter.

Earlier this year, North Carolina became the focus for much of this debate when it enacted a law prohibiting people from using public bathrooms that do not match their biological sex. The law has prompted a backlash from some businesses, large organizations and others, including the National Basketball Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. It is currently being challenged in court by the Obama administration.

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Topics: Gender, Lifestyle, Religion and Society, Social Values

Sep 30, 2016 9:05 am

Hungarians share Europe’s embrace of democratic principles but are less tolerant of refugees, minorities

A combination of strong anti-refugee sentiment and above-average disdain for minority groups sets Hungary apart from many of its fellow European Union nations. But Hungarians and other Europeans widely agree on the importance of democratic values, despite what some see as Hungary’s slipping democracy under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Observers expect Hungarians to deliver a resounding “no” to accepting EU-mandated refugee quotas in a referendum Sunday. Through the course of a highly controversial campaign, Orbán has been criticized for referring to refugees as “poison” and supporting campaign ads linking refugees to terrorism. Such controversy has exacerbated tensions within the EU on Hungary’s adherence to European values of pluralism and liberal democracy.

Despite the country’s labor shortage, Hungarians overwhelmingly see refugees as an economic albatross, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted this spring. Roughly eight-in-ten believe refugees are a burden on their country because they take jobs and social benefits. Similarly, about three-quarters believe that refugees will increase the likelihood of terrorism in Hungary, and about seven-in-ten see the large influx of refugees from countries like Syria and Iraq as a major threat. These figures are much higher in Hungary than in almost every other EU nation surveyed.  Read More

Topics: Country Image, Democracy, Eastern Europe, Europe, Foreign Affairs and Policy, Migration, Non-U.S. Political Leaders

Sep 30, 2016 7:02 am

6 facts about U.S. Mormons

Twice each year, in April and October, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds its General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. These conferences – which are open to all members of the LDS church and are broadcast around the world – offer Mormons an opportunity to hear their leaders speak on a host of topics.

As the next conference gets underway this weekend, here are six facts about U.S. Mormons from Pew Research Center surveys:

1The LDS church typically places very high importance on families and traditional gender roles. Indeed, 81% of Mormons say being a good parent is one of the most important things in life. And 73% say the same about having a successful marriage. By comparison, half of all U.S. adults say being a good parent is one of the most important things in life, and only one-third say having a successful marriage is of utmost importance. Additionally, 58% of Mormons say a marriage where the husband provides and the wife stays at home is preferable to one in which both spouses have jobs. Among the general public, most people (62%) express the opposite view, saying a marriage in which both spouses have jobs and take responsibility for housework and child rearing is more satisfying. At this fall’s pre-conference session specifically for Mormon women, participants were urged to defend the church’s teachings on marriage, family and sexuality.

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Topics: Household and Family Structure, Lifestyle, Mormons and Mormonism, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Sep 29, 2016 2:09 pm

Support for death penalty lowest in more than four decades

As the Supreme Court prepares to hear the first of two death penalty cases in this year’s term, the share of Americans who support the death penalty for people convicted of murder is now at its lowest point in more than four decades.

Only about half of Americans (49%) now favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 42% oppose it. Support has dropped 7 percentage points since March 2015, from 56%. Public support for capital punishment peaked in the mid-1990s, when eight-in-ten Americans (80% in 1994) favored the death penalty and fewer than two-in-ten were opposed (16%). Opposition to the death penalty is now the highest it has been since 1972.

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Topics: Death Penalty, Gender, Race and Ethnicity, Social Values, Supreme Court

Sep 29, 2016 9:30 am

Partisans disagree on news media’s best, worst traits

Americans are divided in what they consider the most positive and negative attribute of the news media, and much of that divide follows party lines: Conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats stand far apart in their views of what the media do best and worst.

Conservative Republicans, for example, are more likely to say that reporting biased news is the most negative thing the media do, while liberal Democrats single out poor choices in the news they cover or how they cover it, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 12-Feb. 8, 2016, in association with the John S. and James L. Knight foundation.

The survey asked Americans to volunteer what they thought was the single most positive and negative thing the news media do.

As far as the most positive thing the media do, Americans are mostly split between two traits. Three-in-ten describe the media’s most positive attribute as simply doing their job of reporting the news, whether in general or on a specific topic. (Weather and traffic tops the list of subject areas, named by 11% of U.S. adults.)

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Topics: News Audience Trends and Attitudes, News Media Ethics and Practices, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation