May 30, 2018 10:00 am

As fatal overdoses rise, many Americans see drug addiction as a major problem in their community

Americans overwhelmingly see drug addiction as a problem in their local community, regardless of whether they live in an urban, suburban or rural area, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The public’s concerns come amid steep increases in the number and rate of fatal drug overdoses across all three community types in recent years.

Nine-in-ten Americans who live in a rural area say drug addiction is either a major or minor problem in their community, as do 87% in urban and 86% in suburban areas, according to the survey of 6,251 adults, conducted Feb. 26-March 11. Substantial shares in each community type say addiction is a major problem, though people in urban and rural areas are more likely to say this than those in a suburban setting (50% and 46%, respectively, compared with 35%).

The problem of drug addiction has drawn widespread attention as the United States confronts an opioid epidemic. President Donald Trump last year declared the epidemic a national public health emergency, and statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscore the deadly toll that opioids and other drugs have taken.

Nationally, more than 63,600 people died of a drug overdose in 2016, the most recent year for which full data are available. (Preliminary data suggest the 2017 number will be even higher.) That’s an increase of 21% from the prior year and nearly double the 34,425 drug overdose deaths that occurred a decade earlier. Opioids – ranging from illegal street drugs like heroin to prescription painkillers – have played an especially lethal role: About two-thirds (66%) of the fatal overdoses in 2016 involved an opioid.

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Topics: Population Geography, Social Values, Drugs, Demographics

May 29, 2018 2:01 pm

Irish vote highlights widespread popular support for legal abortion in Western Europe

A Dublin street filled with signs for both sides ahead of Ireland's May 25 referendum on abortion. The country overwhelmingly voted to overturn the constitutional amendment banning most abortions. (Artur Widak/AFP/Getty Images)
A Dublin street filled with signs for both sides ahead of Ireland’s May 25 referendum on abortion. The country overwhelmingly voted to overturn the constitutional amendment banning most abortions. (Artur Widak/AFP/Getty Images)

Irish voters recently approved a measure that modifies the country’s constitution and opens the door to legal abortion in a broader array of circumstances – perhaps more in line with the rest of Western Europe. The vote (with 66% approving the referendum) underscores the findings in a new Pew Research Center report, which shows that people in Ireland – like those in 14 other Western European countries – believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

As with the recent vote, 66% of Irish adults surveyed said abortion should be legal in all (14%) or most (52%) cases, compared with 30% who said it should be mostly or entirely illegal, according to the Center’s report, which is based on an international survey conducted in the summer of 2017. While this is a somewhat lower level of support for legal abortion than most other countries in Western Europe, it still reflects a regional consensus: Majorities in all 15 countries surveyed share this view, ranging from 60% in Portugal to 94% in Sweden. The regional median of 81% is much higher than the level of support for legal abortion among U.S. adults (57%).

The referendum in Ireland repealed the Eighth Amendment of the country’s constitution, which recognized the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn. The amendment effectively rendered abortion illegal in any circumstances except to save the life of the mother – one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Western Europe.

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Topics: Western Europe, Abortion, Social Values, Europe

May 29, 2018 12:07 pm

10 key findings about religion in Western Europe

Vatican Basilica, Rome. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)
Vatican Basilica, Rome. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

Most Christians in Western Europe today are non-practicing, but Christian identity still remains a meaningful religious, social and cultural marker, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of 15 countries in Western Europe. In addition to religious beliefs and practices, the survey explores respondents’ views on immigration, national identity and pluralism, and how religion is intertwined with attitudes on these issues.

Here are 10 key findings from the new survey:

1Secularization is widespread in Western Europe, but most people in the region still identify as Christian. Rising shares of adults in Western Europe describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated, and about half or more in several countries say they are neither religious nor spiritual. Still, when asked, “What is your present religion, if any?” and given a list of options, most people identify as Christian, including 71% in Germany and 64% in France.

2Even though most people identify as Christian in the region, few regularly attend church. In every country except Italy, non-practicing Christians (that is, those who attend church no more than a few times a year) outnumber church-attending Christians (those who attend church weekly or monthly). In the UK, for example, there are three times as many non-practicing Christians (55%) as practicing Christians (18%). Non-practicing Christians also outnumber religiously unaffiliated adults in most countries surveyed.

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Topics: Western Europe, Religious Affiliation, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Europe

May 24, 2018 3:18 pm

Research from 2018 demographers’ conference: Migration, self-identity, marriage and other key findings

Grand Central Terminal, New York. (Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)
Grand Central Terminal, New York. (Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

Migration, racial or ethnic self-identity, and marriage were among the many topics explored at the Population Association of America’s annual meeting in Denver last month. The meeting, the largest demography conference in the United States, provided a forum for researchers to present their work at more than 250 sessions.

What follows is a brief synopsis of some of the conference’s research highlights. As is true of many conferences, the work presented often is preliminary and may be revised later. The full conference program can be found here.

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Topics: Population Trends, Migration, Demographics, Marriage and Divorce, Race and Ethnicity

May 24, 2018 10:00 am

Republicans turn more negative toward refugees as number admitted to U.S. plummets

Tika Gurung takes notes during an English class in Burlington, Vermont. Her extended family was resettled in the area, as were hundreds of other refugees from Bhutan and Nepal in recent years. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Tika Gurung takes notes during an English class in Burlington, Vermont. Her extended family was resettled in the area, as were hundreds of other refugees from Bhutan and Nepal in recent years. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

Opinions about whether the United States has a responsibility to accept refugees – which were already deeply polarized – have grown even more so, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April and May. The survey comes as the nation is likely to admit its smallest number of refugees in decades.

Roughly half of Americans (51%) say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, while 43% say it does not, the national survey found. That is changed only slightly from February of last year.

However, Republicans have become less likely to say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees. Today, about a quarter of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (26%) say the nation has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, down from 35% in February 2017, a few weeks after President Donald Trump took office.

Opinion among Democrats and Democratic leaners has changed little over this period: Currently, 74% say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees, about three times the share of Republicans saying this.

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Topics: Immigration Attitudes, Migration, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Issue Priorities

May 23, 2018 10:32 am

Religiously, nonwhite Democrats are more similar to Republicans than to white Democrats

It’s sometimes said that the Democratic Party is less comfortable with religion than the GOP. And it is true that, on the whole, Democrats are less religious than Republicans. But this glosses over profound racial and ethnic differences within the Democratic Party: While white Democrats are less likely to be religious than Republicans, nonwhite Democrats – who mostly identify as black or Hispanic – more closely resemble Republicans overall on a host of religious measures.

For example, among Democrats and those who lean toward the Democratic Party, 95% of all nonwhites (which includes 99% of blacks) say they believe in God or a higher power, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. This is exactly the same level of belief seen among Republicans and Republican leaners. By contrast, 78% of white Democrats believe in God or a higher power. And the share of white Democrats who say they do not believe in God or any higher power (21%) is quadruple the level seen among nonwhite Democrats (5%), as well as among both white and nonwhite Republicans (5% each).

There is a similar pattern when it comes to belief in God as described in the Bible. Nonwhite Democrats are roughly twice as likely as white Democrats to say they believe in the biblical God (61% vs. 32%), and are only a little less likely than Republicans (70%) to say this. In addition, nonwhite Democrats are almost twice as likely as white Democrats to say they believe that God or another higher power is all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful (64% vs. 35%). Among all Republicans, 67% say they believe this.

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Topics: Political Party Affiliation, Religious Affiliation, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Political Attitudes and Values, Race and Ethnicity, Religion and U.S. Politics

May 22, 2018 12:03 pm

Key findings about American life in urban, suburban and rural areas

Chris Maertz/EyeEm via Getty
(Chris Maertz/EyeEm via Getty)

Major demographic shifts are reshaping the United States. The country is growing in population while becoming older and more racially and ethnically diverse. To some extent, these demographic trends are playing out differently in America’s urban, suburban and rural communities.

These three community types are also on different paths politically. Rural counties have moved in a Republican direction and urban areas have become even more Democratic over the past two decades; the suburbs remain about evenly divided between the two parties.

Despite these demographic and political differences, people across community types have much in common. For example, they are about equally likely to say they are attached to their communities, and they share some of the same concerns about issues in their areas.

Here are some key findings from a new Pew Research Center report about the attitudes and experiences of urban, suburban and rural Americans:

1Suburbs are growing faster than urban and rural areas. Since 2000, suburban counties saw a 16% increase in population, compared with increases of 13% and 3%, respectively, in urban and rural counties. The overall share of U.S. residents who live in suburban counties has also risen during this period, while holding steady in urban counties and declining in rural ones.

The growth in suburban areas since 2000 is driven by several factors. More than 6 million Americans who used to live in urban and rural counties have migrated to the suburbs, and more than 5 million international immigrants have settled there as well. While urban counties have also had an influx of international immigrants since 2000 (7 million), they have lost 5 million residents to suburban and rural areas. In contrast, in rural counties, the number that moved out to other types of communities since 2000 modestly exceeded the number that moved in. All county types saw more births than deaths during this time period.

2Suburbs are aging more rapidly than urban and rural areas. Nationally and in each community type, the 65-and-older population has grown more sharply since 2000 than any other age group. But while older adults are a higher share of the population in rural areas, suburban counties have seen the largest increase. The 65-and-older population has grown 39% in the suburbs since 2000, compared with 26% in urban and 22% in rural counties.

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Topics: Population Geography, Demographics

May 22, 2018 12:03 pm

America is changing demographically. Here’s how your county compares

Large demographic shifts are reshaping America. In urban counties, nonwhites now make up a clear majority of the population, while solid majorities in suburban and rural areas are white. Urban and suburban counties are gaining population due to an influx of immigrants in both types of counties, as well as domestic migration into suburban areas. Rural counties, however, have made only minimal population gains since 2000 as more people have left for urban or suburban areas than have moved in. And while the population is graying in all three types of communities, this is happening more rapidly in the suburbs than in urban and rural counties.

These trends are making urban, suburban and rural counties more distinct from one another. This may help explain why a new Pew Research Center survey finds most urban and rural residents feel misunderstood by those who live in other types of communities.

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Topics: Demographics

May 21, 2018 9:00 am

U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout

Tellers in Seoul, South Korea, count ballots from the May 2017 presidential election, which had a turnout of nearly 78% of the voting-age population. (Jean Chung/Getty Images)
Tellers in Seoul, South Korea, count ballots from the May 2017 presidential election, which had a turnout of nearly 78% of the voting-age population. (Jean Chung/Getty Images)

Nearly 56% of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election, representing a slight uptick compared with 2012 but less than in the record year of 2008. While most Americans – 70% in a recent Pew Research Center survey – say high turnout in presidential elections is very important, what constitutes “high turnout” depends very much on which country you’re looking at and which measuring stick you use.

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Topics: Voter Participation, Elections and Campaigns, World Elections

May 17, 2018 7:00 am

Americans say U.S. colleges make the grade, but many say public schools don’t measure up

(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Americans say their nation’s colleges and universities compare relatively well with those in other developed countries – but the public offers more negative assessments of the state of U.S. public schools.

About half of U.S. adults say the country’s colleges and universities are either the “best in the world” (16%) or “above average” (35%) compared with those in other developed nations, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. By comparison, just 18% say U.S. public schools rank above average or higher internationally, while 41% of Americans say public schools are below average (37% rate them as average).

On many measures of how the United States fares relative to other countries, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to view the nation as performing better. This extends to views of the country’s public schools.

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Topics: Political Polarization, Trust in Institutions, Education, U.S. Political Parties, Political Attitudes and Values