Oct 8, 2014 9:25 am

For many Americans, a ‘meh’ midterm

Midterm elections rarely excite the general public, but 2014 is shaping up to be an especially underwhelming cycle for many Americans. With about a month remaining in the congressional races, 15% are very closely following news about the midterms —  down from similar periods before the elections in 2010 (25%) and 2006 (21%).Americans not very interested in 2014 midterm elections

Our new survey, which was fielded Oct. 2-5, found that an additional 22% of the public said they are following the midterm election news fairly closely, 25% said not too closely, and 39% said not at all.

As Pew Research has tracked midterm news interest throughout the year, attention to the elections consistently has lagged behind what it was four years ago. In eight surveys this year, news interest in the midterms has never topped 16% in a given week. Read More

Topics: 2014 Election, Election News, News Interest

Oct 7, 2014 7:00 am

Blacks are lukewarm to gay marriage, but most say businesses must provide wedding services to gay couples

African Americans remain less likely than white Americans to support same-sex marriage, as has been the case for several years. But at the same time, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that a majority of blacks – a significantly bigger share than among whites – say that wedding-related businesses, such as caterers or florists, should be required to provide wedding services to gay and lesbian couples.

Race and Same-Sex MarriageOur aggregated 2014 polling has found that about four-in-ten black Americans (42 %) support same-sex marriage, 11 percentage points below the comparable figure among whites (53%). Meanwhile, seven-in-ten African Americans (70%) say that homosexual behavior is a sin, compared with 47% of whites who say this, according to our new survey. Read More

Topics: African Americans, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality

Oct 6, 2014 4:30 pm

What today’s Supreme Court decision means for gay marriage

Erika Turner and Jennifer Melsop become the first same-sex couple to marry in Arlington, Va. Credit: Getty Images
Erika Turner and Jennifer Melsop become the first same-sex couple to marry in Arlington, Va. Credit: Getty Images
FT_14.10.6_courtMarriage
Click to view an interactive map detailing how state policies on same-sex marriage have changed over time.

The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected requests to review lower court decisions that overturned bans on same-sex marriage in five states: Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. By denying these requests, the court effectively legalized gay marriage in these states. The lower court rulings had been on hold until the Supreme Court weighed in, but soon after the high court’s decision was made known, a number of states, including Virginia and Wisconsin, announced that gay and lesbian couples would be able to marry almost immediately.

While today’s decision settles the issue in some states, it has not ended the battle over same-sex marriage. Here is an explainer of today’s news and its possible impact. Read More

Topics: Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Supreme Court

Oct 6, 2014 9:30 am

Supreme Court to decide whether inmates have religious right to grow beards

Gregory H. Holt argues that federal law protects his right to grow a beard for religious reasons.
Gregory H. Holt argues that federal law protects his right to grow a beard for religious reasons.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Holt v. Hobbs, a case that will test the limits of religious liberty for prison inmates. Specifically, the court will determine whether prison officials may prohibit or limit a Muslim inmate from growing a beard, which many Muslims believe is required by their faith.

Here’s an explainer about the case and why it matters: Read More

Topics: Religious Beliefs and Practices, Supreme Court

Oct 6, 2014 7:00 am

Who’s in charge of the Fed? Don’t bank on public knowing the answer

Several questions in Pew Research’s latest News IQ survey stumped a majority of the public, including the identity of one very important person.

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t taken the quiz yet, you might want to do so now before you keep reading.

Forbes named her the most powerful woman in the U.S., but Janet Yellen is far from a household name. Just 24% of Americans can correctly pick out Yellen — from a list of four — as the chair of the Federal Reserve Board.janet yellen federal reserve chair

Nearly one-in-five (17%) say the current head of the Fed is Alan Greenspan, who led the board from 1987 to 2006. About one-in-ten chose a Supreme Court justice, either Sonia Sotomayor (6%) or John Roberts (5%). And roughly half (48%) did not offer a guess.

Read More

Topics: Public Knowledge, U.S. Political Figures

Oct 3, 2014 11:14 am

How’s the job market? Ups, downs of public sentiment mirror official stats

unemployment3_Oct3Americans may not be raging optimists when it comes to finding work — perhaps “skeptical realists” is closer to the mark — but their self-assessment of the job market tracks pretty closely with official unemployment statistics.

The nation’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.9% in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures out today. That represents a drop of 4.1 percentage points from the high of 10% recorded in October 2009 — although, as we’ve discussed before, some of that decline comes not from more people finding work but from more people dropping out of the labor force. Read More

Topics: National Economy, Work and Employment

Oct 3, 2014 9:44 am

Vatican synod on family highlights discord between church teachings and U.S. Catholics’ views

This weekend in Rome, the Catholic Church is set to begin a wide-ranging synod (assembly) on family issues. The two-week meeting comes at a time when most American Catholics say they disagree with their church’s teachings on family-related issues such as birth control and divorce. It also takes place in the wake of recent actions by Pope Francis that hint at the possibility of changing attitudes within the Vatican on questions related to marriage and family.

Last month, Francis fueled speculation about potential changes to church policies toward marriage by performing 20 weddings, including for couples that had children out of wedlock, had lived together before marriage or had been previously married. Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Religion and Society, Religious Leaders

Oct 2, 2014 5:09 pm

U.S. deportations of immigrants reach record high in 2013

Deportations in FY 2013

The Obama administration deported a record 438,421 unauthorized immigrants in fiscal year 2013, continuing a streak of stepped up enforcement that has resulted in more than 2 million deportations since Obama took office, newly released Department of Homeland Security data show.

President Obama today is scheduled to address members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a group that has recently criticized the president on immigration. Last month, the caucus urged the president to take executive action on immigration by extending deportation relief to certain groups of unauthorized immigrants, such as parents of U.S.-born children. Some immigrant advocates have dubbed Obama the “deporter in chief” over the fact that his administration has deported about as many immigrants in five years as the George W. Bush administration deported in eight years.

During his speech, Obama is expected to reiterate his pledge to make changes to immigration policy on his own, something he said he will do after the November midterm elections.  Read More

Topics: Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Immigration, Unauthorized Immigration

Oct 2, 2014 1:00 pm

Turks don’t like their national press much, but rely on it heavily for news

This week, representatives for the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Press Institute are meeting with government officials in Turkey to discuss what the organizations say are increasing restrictions on press freedom and growing concerns about journalists’ safety. The country banned Twitter earlier this year, which prompted a lawsuit from Turkish journalists. And last month, the U.S. State Department criticized Turkish officials for threatening a New York Times reporter.

Media advocates have also voiced concern about the government’s detention of the press. 211 journalists were jailed worldwide last year, and Turkey led the way with 40 journalists behind bars, according to a 2013 report by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Turkey was also the No. 1 country to imprison journalists in 2012, with 49 detained according to the report.  Read More

Topics: Asia and the Pacific, News Media Trends, Social Media

Oct 2, 2014 11:44 am

U.S. high school dropout rate reaches record low, driven by improvements among Hispanics, blacks

US high school dropout rate reaches new low
AP Photo/Burlington Times-News, Sam Roberts

More U.S. high school students are staying in school, according to newly released data from the Census Bureau, as the national dropout rate reached a record low last year. Just 7% of the nation’s 18-to-24 year olds had dropped out of high school, continuing a steady decline in the nation’s dropout rate since 2000, when 12% of youth were dropouts.

Hispanic and Black High School Dropout Rates Lowest on RecordThe decline in the national dropout rate has been driven, in part, by substantially fewer Hispanic and black youth dropping out of school (the non-Hispanic white dropout rate has not fallen as sharply). Although Hispanics still have the highest dropout rate among all major racial and ethnic groups, it reached a record-low of 14% in 2013, compared with 32% of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds who were dropouts in 2000.

The new data show significant progress over the past decade at other measures of educational attainment among Hispanic youth: Not only are fewer dropping out of high school, but more are finishing high school and attending college. The only exception is that Hispanics continue to substantially trail white youth in obtaining bachelor’s degrees. Read More

Topics: College, Education