Sep 4, 2018 10:12 am

7 facts about American Catholics

Parishioners worship during Mass at St. Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, on Aug. 15. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

The Catholic Church is larger than any other single religious institution in the United States, with over 17,000 parishes that serve a large and diverse population. In spite of its size and influence, the church in recent decades has faced a number of significant challenges, from a decline in membership to a shortage of priests to continuing revelations that some Catholic clergy sexually abused minors and (in many cases) that their superiors covered up these actions.

Here are seven facts about American Catholics and their church:

1 There are roughly 51 million Catholic adults in the U.S., accounting for about one-fifth of the total U.S. adult population, according to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study. That study found that the share of Americans who are Catholic declined from 24% in 2007 to 21% in 2014.

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Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Religious Affiliation

Aug 31, 2018 10:01 am

As debris piles up, Americans are skeptical enough will be done to limit space junk

A NASA-generated image of Earth depicts the many objects in geosynchronous orbit, about 22,000 miles above the surface. (NASA Orbital Debris Program Office)

Private companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are becoming increasingly important players in space exploration. Many Americans are confident these companies will be profitable, but they’re more skeptical they will keep space clean of debris, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Over the past 60 years, more than 5,250 space launches have spawned an orbital junkyard consisting of around 23,000 objects large enough to be detected, with a combined (Earth) weight of over 8,000 tons. While that’s a small amount compared with the more than 3.5 million tons of garbage the world produces every single day, it’s enough to pose a growing hazard to satellites and space stations.

There is at least one terrestrial clean-up strategy that could be applied to space junk: recycling. Among the estimated 4,500 satellites in orbit, only about 1,500 are still functional. But those roughly 3,000 dead satellites contain valuable components that could be repurposed for other uses. Some could be towed to Mars, to assist missions to the red planet, where they could be repaired. Other satellites with valuable building materials could be melted down by a solar-powered orbiting forge.

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Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Science and Innovation, Energy and Environment

Aug 30, 2018 3:01 pm

Where the public stands on key issues that could come before the Supreme Court

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, right, shakes hands with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, after their July 10 meeting at the U.S. Capitol. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to begin confirmation hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in July after three decades on the court.

In a Pew Research Center survey just after Kavanaugh’s nomination, Americans were divided: 41% said he should be confirmed, 36% said he should not and 23% offered no opinion. There was far more agreement over the importance of the selection itself: 83% of U.S. adults said the choice of the next Supreme Court justice is important to them personally, including 63% who said it is very important.

Ahead of the Senate’s deliberations over Kavanaugh, here’s a look at where the public stands on some of the major legal, political and social issues that could come before the justices in the years ahead, based on surveys conducted by Pew Research Center.

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Topics: Supreme Court, Federal Government

Aug 30, 2018 9:58 am

Most Americans view unions favorably, though few workers belong to one

Union members and construction workers hold a rally on May 22 in Columbus Circle in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Union members and construction workers hold a rally on May 22 in Columbus Circle in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Most Americans like labor unions, at least in the abstract. A majority (55%) holds a favorable view of unions, versus 33% who hold an unfavorable view, according to a Pew Research Center survey from earlier this year. For most of the past three decades that the Center has asked that question, in fact, Americans have viewed unions at least somewhat more favorably than unfavorably.

A long downward slide for U.S. unionsDespite those fairly benign views, unionization rates in the United States have dwindled in recent decades (even though, in the past few years, the absolute number of union members has grown slightly). As of 2017, just 10.7% of all wage and salary workers were union members, matching the record low set in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Back in 1983, when the BLS data series begins, about a fifth (20.1%) of wage and salary workers belonged to a union. (Unionization peaked in 1954 at 34.8% of all U.S. wage and salary workers, according to separate data from the Congressional Research Service.)

The long-term decline of organized labor has affected most parts of the U.S. economy, but not uniformly. In general, the biggest declines in unionization have come in those occupations and industries that were – and to a large extent still are – the foundations of the American labor movement, according to our analysis of BLS data going back to 2000.

Among the 22 broad occupational categories into which the BLS sorts U.S. wage and salary workers, the biggest decline in union membership from 2000 to 2017 was in transportation and material moving occupations, a broad grouping that includes everything from airline pilots and long-haul truckers to taxi drivers, train conductors and parking-lot attendants. In 2000, nearly 1.8 million of the 8.1 million workers in those occupations, or 21.7%, were union members. By last year, only 1.3 million transportation and material moving workers (14.8%) were unionized, even though total employment in the sector had grown to more than 8.8 million.  Read More

Topics: Business and Labor, Work and Employment

Aug 29, 2018 10:04 am

Q&A: The challenges of creating a religious typology

Pew Research Center surveys on religion in the United States typically sort Americans by their religious affiliation (or lack of affiliation). But our latest report looks at religion in America in a different way. This new analysis creates a typology that cuts across denominations, sorting Americans into seven groups, or “clusters,” based on their religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, the value they place on their religion, and the sources of meaning and fulfillment in their lives. Rich Morin, a senior editor at the Center, explains how the study was put together, and discusses the role of cluster analysis in creating the typology.

Why do a typology of religion in the first place?  

Rich Morin, Senior Editor, Pew Research Center
Rich Morin, Senior Editor,
Pew Research Center

When researchers study religion, they usually classify U.S. adults based on their religious denomination or group – the Catholic, Jewish, Baptist, Muslim and assorted other categories familiar to most Americans. Our goal was not to replace traditional religious categories but instead to create categories built around personal religious and spiritual beliefs, as well as behaviors and experiences that are broadly shared by people of different faiths. And, in addition to identifying characteristics that cut across denominational lines, we wanted this new religious typology to illuminate the key differences in belief and practice that exist within religious traditions.

What does this typology tell us about American religion that we didn’t already know?

We believe that this religious typology, based on people’s beliefs and practices rather than on their denomination, offers a new and important way to understand the American religious experience. It identifies both what unites certain people across the boundaries of different religious denominations and also what divides people of the same religious tradition. Beyond the distinctive characteristics of the seven groups, other striking findings include the low level of religious participation among many of those who consider themselves to be religious, widespread New Age beliefs (even among those who are religious in traditional ways), and the many and varied ways that people find meaning and personal fulfillment in their lives.

You grouped survey respondents using something called cluster analysis. What is cluster analysis and how does it work? Read More

Topics: Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Research Methods

Aug 29, 2018 10:04 am

From the Solidly Secular to Sunday Stalwarts, a look at our new religious typology

Most American adults identify with a religion, describing themselves as Protestants, Catholics or Jews, to name just a few examples. But a new Pew Research Center analysis looks at beliefs and behaviors that cut across many religious identities, producing a new and revealing classification, or typology, of religion in America. The new typology sorts U.S. adults into seven cohesive groups based on their answers to 16 questions about their religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, the value they place on religion, and the ways they find meaning and fulfillment in life.

For details on what the typology analysis entailed and why Pew Research Center undertook this new analysis, read a Q&A with Senior Editor Rich Morin, “The challenges of creating a religious typology.” 

Three of the seven groups are composed of highly religious Americans who are united by a traditional view of God and by the shared conviction that organized religion is generally a force for good in American life. Sunday Stalwarts are the most religious of the seven typology groups; they have a high level of involvement in religious congregations and actively practice their faith.

God-and-Country Believers are less active in church groups or other religious organizations, but, like Sunday Stalwarts, they hold many traditional religious beliefs and tilt right on social and political issues.

The Diversely Devout includes a relatively large share of racial and ethnic minorities. They are also diverse in their beliefs: It is the only group in which most people say they believe in God “as described in the Bible” and in which majorities say they believe in psychics, reincarnation and that spiritual energy can be located in physical things like mountains, trees and crystals.

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Topics: Religiously Unaffiliated, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Aug 28, 2018 12:31 pm

Americans have mixed views of Mexico, ‘warmer’ feelings toward Canada

As the Trump administration proposes changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Americans have sharply different feelings about the two countries that, along with the U.S., are part of that agreement.

Americans feel much 'colder' toward Mexico than CanadaViews of Mexico are mixed: While 39% say they feel “warmly” toward Mexico, 34% feel “coldly,” and 26% are neutral, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted July 30 to Aug. 12 among 4,581 adults.

The feelings are expressed on a 0-100 “feeling thermometer,” where a rating of 51 or higher is “warm,” a rating below 50 is “cold,” and a rating of 50 is neutral.

The public has much warmer feelings toward Canada. Two-thirds (67%) say they feel warmly toward Canada, with 52% giving it a very warm rating (76 or higher on the scale). Just 12% feel coldly toward Canada.

Republicans less likely than Democrats to feel warmly toward Mexico or very warmly toward CanadaThere are sizable partisan differences in opinions of both Mexico and Canada. More than half of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (55%) say they feel warmly toward Mexico, including about one-third (34%) who say they feel very warmly.

A majority of Republicans (53%) have cold feelings toward Mexico, including about a third (32%) who feel very coldly. Only 21% of Republicans report warm feelings toward Mexico, including just 9% who have very warm feelings.

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Topics: Mexico, Political Polarization, Globalization and Trade, North America

Aug 27, 2018 2:00 pm

America’s public school teachers are far less racially and ethnically diverse than their students

Technology coach and teacher Milton Bryant shows students how to access online exercises at Ketcham Elementary school in Washington, D.C., in 2014. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 20% of all public elementary and secondary school teachers in the United States during the 2015-16 school year, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). That makes teachers considerably less racially and ethnically diverse than their students – as well as the nation as a whole.

By comparison, 51% of all public elementary and secondary school students in the U.S. were nonwhite in 2015-16, the most recent year for which NCES has published data. And 39% of all Americans were racial or ethnic minorities that year, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates. (Younger Americans are a more racially and ethnically diverse group than older people.)

Nonwhites make up a small share of public school teachersNonwhite teachers not only were sharply outnumbered by white teachers in America’s classrooms, they also tended to work in different school environments, the NCES data show. For example, 31% of teachers in city schools were nonwhite, versus just 11% of teachers in rural schools – a reflection of the broader racial and ethnic makeup of America’s communities. And while nonwhite teachers accounted for 29% of the total in public charter schools, their share was considerably lower in traditional public schools (19%).

Larger shares of teachers were nonwhite at schools with more nonwhite students, while the reverse was true for schools with more white students. For instance, nonwhites made up 55% of teachers in schools where at least 90% of students were nonwhite. By comparison, across schools where at least 90% of students were white, nearly all teachers (98%) also were white. This is similar to the experience for students: Many students go to schools where at least half of their peers are their race or ethnicity. (A recent article by the Brookings Institution argued that students benefit from a diverse teacher workforce so nonwhite teachers should be more evenly distributed.)

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Topics: Education, Race and Ethnicity

Aug 23, 2018 1:59 pm

Republicans and Democrats agree: They can’t agree on basic facts

Nearly eight-in-ten Americans say that when it comes to important issues facing the country, most Republican and Democratic voters not only disagree over plans and policies, but also cannot agree on basic facts.

Large majorities of both parties say voters cannot agree on basic factsIronically, Republicans and Democrats do agree that partisan disagreements extend to the basic facts of issues, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, conducted July 30-Aug. 12 among 4,581 adults.

About eight-in-ten Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (81%) say Republican and Democratic voters disagree on basic facts of issues. A similar – albeit slightly smaller – share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (76%) say the same. Just 18% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats say that voters of the two parties can agree on basic facts even if they disagree over policies and plans.

These views are nearly identical to the shares who said before the 2016 election that Trump and Clinton supporters could not agree over basic facts.

Ideological differences within the partisan groups are more pronounced than differences between the parties on this topic. While about seven-in-ten moderate and liberal Republicans and Republican leaners (72%) say that Republican and Democratic voters cannot agree on basic facts, an even higher share of conservative Republicans (86%) say this. Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, liberals are somewhat more likely than conservatives and moderates to think that the two parties disagree on basic facts (81% vs. 73%). Read More

Topics: Political Party Affiliation, Trust, Facts and Democracy, Political Polarization

Aug 23, 2018 12:04 pm

Applications for U.S. diversity visa lottery remained near record in 2017

More than 22.4 million people applied in 2017 to a U.S. visa program that provides 50,000 green cards, or lawful permanent residence, each year through a lottery system, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. State Department data. The number of applicants nearly matched the record 23 million applicants received in 2016 and came as the Trump administration and some members of Congress have sought to eliminate the program – the only one of its kind globally.

Number of U.S. diversity visa lottery applicants topped 22 million in 2017

Since 2005, more than 200 million people from countries around the world have applied for the program, known as the U.S. diversity lottery, which seeks to diversify the nation’s immigrant population by granting visas to immigrants from nations that are underrepresented among recently arrived immigrants.

Eight countries had at least a million applicants in 2016, accounting for more than half of the total: Ghana, Uzbekistan, Iran, Ukraine, Egypt, Nepal, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. (2016 is the most recent year for which country-specific data on applications are available.)

In some countries, a significant share of the population applied for the diversity visa lottery in 2016. In Liberia, for example, nearly 15% of the country’s citizens applied for the program. Other African countries with high shares of applicants included Sierra Leone (14%) and Ghana (8%). European countries such as Albania (13%), Moldova (11%) and Armenia (9%) also saw substantial shares of their populations submit applications. In Asia, Uzbekistan (7%) and Nepal (4%) had the region’s highest shares on this measure. Overall, nearly 1% of people in eligible countries applied for the program.

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Topics: Immigration Trends, Global Migration and Demography, Migration, Immigration