Nov 6, 2014 7:00 am

East Germans now as satisfied with life as West Germans

Twenty five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, views of East and West Germans are not seamless, but on the most basic of questions – life satisfaction – residents of the former German Democratic Republic express as much happiness with their lives as do West Germans. That is far different than the way things were back in the days immediately following the collapse of communism.

Life satisfaction in former Communist countries like East Germany has improved.

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Topics: Eastern Europe, Western Europe, World Economies

Nov 5, 2014 2:03 pm

Making more than minimum wage, but less than $10.10 an hour

FT_14.10.17_lowWageVoters in four states easily approved ballot initiatives to raise their minimum wages on Tuesday, further evidence of strong public support for the idea that the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour isn’t enough for today’s workers. The votes in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota mean that by Jan. 1, 29 of the 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) will have higher minimums than the federal standard.

President Obama and many Democrats have pushed for raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, although efforts in Congress to do that fizzled this summer. And with Republicans, who generally oppose raising the minimum wage, winning control of the Senate and expanding their House majority yesterday, it’s unlikely that any new effort in Congress will get very far. Read More

Topics: Work and Employment

Nov 5, 2014 12:44 pm

As GOP celebrates win, no sign of narrowing gender, age gaps

2014 Midterm Exit Poll, GenderYesterday’s elections brought a widespread win for the Republican Party, which will increase its share of seats in the House in the next Congress, and take over the Senate, with a net gain of at least seven seats.

Nationally, 52% of voters backed Republican candidates for Congress, while 47% voted for Democrats, according to exit polls by the National Election Pool, as reported by The New York Times. The overall vote share is similar to the GOP’s margin in the 2010 elections, and many of the key demographic divides seen in that election — particularly wide gender and age gaps — remain.

Men favored Republicans by a 16-point margin (57% voted for the GOP, 41% for Democrats) yesterday, while women voted for Democratic candidates by a four-point margin (51% to 47%). This gender gap is at least as large as in 2010: In that election men voted for Republicans by a 14-point margin while women were nearly evenly split, opting for GOP candidates by a one-point margin. Read More

Topics: 2014 Election, Election News, Gender, Generations and Age

Nov 5, 2014 11:10 am

6 facts about marijuana

Attitudes about marijuana have undergone a rapid shift in public opinion, paralleled by few other trends in the U.S. Our recent data, along with historical figures from Gallup and the General Social Survey, reveal how views have shifted about the drug over time. Earlier this year, our survey found that many more Americans now favor shifting the focus of the nation’s overall drug policy. Here are six key facts about public opinion and marijuana:

1Support for marijuana legalization is rapidly outpacing oppositionA slim majority (52%) of Americans say the drug should be made legal, compared with 45% who want it to be illegal. Opinions have changed drastically since 1969, when Gallup first asked the question and found that just 12% favored legalizing marijuana use. Much of the change in opinion has occurred over the past few years — support rose 11 points between 2010 and 2013 (although it has remained unchanged in the past year). Separately, 76% in our February survey said people convicted of minor possession should not serve time in jail. Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Domestic Affairs and Policy, Drugs

Nov 4, 2014 3:52 pm

Why measuring the demographics of voters on Election Day is difficult

One of the big questions about any election, including this year’s midterm, is who turned out to vote and who did not. Pollsters, journalists and politicians carefully want to examine the racial and ethnic demographics of the electorate. For example, how many Latinos voted? How many blacks and whites voted, and how do those shares compare with turnout in previous elections?

These questions aren’t easy to answer because the two primary sources that provide insight into voter demographics — the National Election Pool’s Exit Poll and the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey — use different methodologies, are released at different times, and often produce slightly different results. Read More

Topics: 2014 Election, Hispanic/Latino Vote

Nov 4, 2014 11:12 am

No matter how tight the race, midterm voter turnout likely to remain lackluster

For all of the money spent on this year’s midterm elections — $3.67 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics — less than half of eligible voters will actually cast ballots in the nation’s 435 House districts, if history is any guide.

House Election TurnoutPolitical scientists (and practical politicians) long have recognized that voter turnout surges in presidential election years and falls off in midterm elections. In the 2008 presidential election, for example, nearly 59% of estimated eligible voters voted in that year’s House elections. Two years later for the midterms, only about 41% of eligible voters went to the polls. (We estimated eligible voters in each district from 2006 through 2012 using data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, and obtained vote totals for every House race from the House Clerk’s office. Our analysis excluded a handful of races in which unopposed candidates weren’t listed on the ballot.)

You might think there’d be some relationship between how competitive a given election is and turnout. A race where victory could go either way might spur more interest and rev up get-out-the-vote efforts from both sides; a race where one candidate is a prohibitive favorite could lead many people to conclude there’s no point in heading out to vote. But our analysis shows little, if any, correlation between a House election’s competitiveness (measured by the winner’s victory margin) and turnout. Read More

Topics: 2014 Election, Congress

Nov 4, 2014 7:00 am

6 facts about the electorate on midterm day

All through this year, we have been tracking the mood and opinions of the general public and those who have registered or are likely to vote, and that has added up to this snapshot of the 2014 electorate, which we’ve boiled down to six facts.

Despite improvement in the economy, few Americans give it high marks or expect it to improve much in the next year.1Even though the unemployment rate has fallen sharply since the 2010 midterm elections and a host of other economic measures have improved significantly, it has not done much to brighten the public’s mood on what it considers to be the most important voting issue. While the economy gets better marks than in the last two elections, that isn’t saying much. Just 21% of Americans rated the economy as excellent or good in a mid-October survey (compared with 13% in September 2012 and 8% in October 2010). And, in this election cycle, fewer Americans expect continued improvement with just 27% believing economic conditions will be better a year from now.

More voters see midterm ballot as a vote against Obama than for him.2President Obama is a negative factor for many voters. In our survey last month, 32% of registered voters said they thought of their vote for Congress as a vote against Obama, while 20% saw it as a vote for Obama. The rest said Obama would not be a factor in their decision. Obama has even lost ground among fellow Democrats. About four-in-ten (38%) voters who plan to support the Democratic candidate in the congressional elections said they considered their vote a vote “for” Obama, down from 53% in the 2010 midterms.

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: 2014 Election, Barack Obama, Elections and Campaigns, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation, U.S. Political Parties

Nov 3, 2014 12:29 pm

For most voters, congressional elections offer little drama

On Election Day, can’t you just smell the excitement in the air? Actually, you probably can’t: An overwhelming majority of voters live in congressional districts with little real competition, and a handful without any at all.

FT_14.10.31_competitiveHouse_4Pew Research Center report last week used ratings and analyses by such sources as the Cook Political Report and Real Clear Politics to estimate that there are only 14 truly competitive House elections this year. But the ratings are only predictions, and if history is any guide several more House races will turn out closer than expected. In 2012, for instance, 29 House candidates won by less than 5 percentage points over their closest rival; another 34 won by at least five but fewer than 10 percentage points. Still, that’s only 63 races out of 435 House districts, representing around 15% of eligible voters. Read More

Topics: 2014 Election, Congress

Nov 3, 2014 7:00 am

Berlin Wall’s fall marked the end of the Cold War for the American public

Fall of Berlin Wall
People gather near a part of the Berlin Wall that has been broken down after the communist German Democratic Republic’s (GDR) decision to open borders between East and West Berlin, circa November 1989. (Photo by Carol Guzy/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

News of the fall of the Berlin Wall had a dramatic impact on American public opinion 25 years ago. Although it was clear that major changes were going on in the Soviet Union even before then, the wall coming down between East and West Berlin drove home in a very dramatic and convincing way to Americans that the communist world was coming undone.

No less than 82% of the public paid close attention to news about the opening of the Berlin Wall between East and West Germany. And as many as 50% paid very close attention to this story, according to an early November 1989 nationwide survey conducted by Gallup/Times Mirror. This is one of the highest levels of closely following a foreign story not directly involving the U.S. in all of the news interest measures taken by Center for the People & the Press before or since.    Read More

Topics: Communism, Eastern Europe, Foreign Affairs and Policy

Oct 31, 2014 10:20 am

The Turkish people don’t look favorably upon the U.S., or any other country, really

Turks Views of U.S.As U.S. and Western-led airstrikes continue to target Islamic State fighters for control of the Syrian-Turkish border town of Kobane, questions have been raised about the U.S. and Turkey’s 60-year alliance. But even prior to the Islamic State’s push there, Turks have held decidedly negative views of the U.S. going back over a decade, and, additionally, do not much like other foreign powers either.

Since we began polling the Turkish people in 2002, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, never have more than three-in-ten said they have a favorable view of the U.S. But anti-Americanism really spiked in the aftermath of the 2003 Iraq War, when 83% of Turks held a negative view of America. Today, only 19% in Turkey like the U.S., while nearly three-quarters (73%) share a dislike of their NATO ally. (Unfortunately, we do not have comparable data for American views of Turkey).  Read More

Topics: Middle East and North Africa, U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism