May 8, 2018 7:01 am

Most Americans want to limit campaign spending, say big donors have greater political influence

Americans overwhelmingly support limits on political campaign spending, and most think new laws could effectively reduce the role of money in politics.

A recent Pew Research Center report finds several indications of public concern over campaign spending. There is widespread – and bipartisan – agreement that people who make large political donations should not have more political influence than others, but Americans largely don’t see that as a description of the country today.

And there is extensive support for reining in campaign spending: 77% of the public says “there should be limits on the amount of money individuals and organizations” can spend on political campaigns; just 20% say they should be able to spend as much as they want.

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Topics: Elections and Campaigns

May 7, 2018 11:00 am

Blacks more likely than others in U.S. to read the Bible regularly, see it as God’s word

(Stephen Morton/Getty Images)
(Stephen Morton/Getty Images)

This is one of an occasional series of posts on black Americans and religion.

For African Americans, the Bible’s Exodus narrative is a cultural touchstone. Since before the Civil War, the story of the Israelites’ slavery and deliverance has spurred comparisons to black people’s experiences in the United States. Scripture’s importance to the black population in the U.S. is reflected in Pew Research Center survey data showing that black people are more likely than most other Americans to read scripture regularly and to view it as the word of God.

Indeed, more than half of black people in the U.S. (54%) – both Christian and non-Christian – say they read the Bible or other holy scripture at least once a week outside of religious services, compared with 32% of whites and 38% of Hispanics, according to data from the 2014 Religious Landscape Study. Indeed, relatively few black people (24%) say they seldom or never read the Bible, compared with 50% of whites and 40% of Hispanics.

Among Christian groups, 61% of those who are members of the historically black Protestant tradition (more than half of all black Americans) read scripture at least weekly, similar to the level seen among those in the evangelical Protestant tradition (63%). In addition, those in the historically black Protestant tradition are much more likely than Catholics (25%) and mainline Protestants (30%) to say they read scripture at least weekly, though less likely than Jehovah’s Witnesses (88%) and Mormons (77%).

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Topics: Religious Beliefs and Practices, Race and Ethnicity

May 4, 2018 9:00 am

More than a million Millennials are becoming moms each year

Some 1.2 million Millennial women gave birth for the first time in 2016, according to National Center for Health Statistics data, raising the total number of U.S. women in this generation who have become mothers to more than 17 million.

All told, Millennial women (those born from 1981 to 1996) accounted for 82% of U.S. births in 2016. At the same time, Millennials made up 29% of the adult U.S. population and more than a third of the U.S. workforce (35%).

While they now account for the vast majority of annual U.S. births, Millennial women are waiting longer to become parents than prior generations did. In 2016, for instance, 48% of Millennial women (ages 20 to 35 at the time) were moms. But in 2000, when women from Generation X – those born between 1965 and 1980 – were the same age, 57% were already moms, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey data. (The rising age at first birth is hardly limited to the Millennial generation. It has been a trend since at least 1970 and may stem from many factors, including a shift away from marriage, increasing educational attainment and the movement of women into the labor force.)

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Topics: Birth Rate and Fertility, Millennials, Gender, Demographics, Generations and Age, Parenthood

May 3, 2018 3:01 pm

The number of refugees admitted to the U.S. has fallen, especially among Muslims

Syrian refugee Baraa Haj Khalaf receives a kiss from her mother, Fattoum Haj Khalaf, in February 2017 shortly after the family had arrived at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Her daughter Sham is held by her sister Aya at right. (Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian refugee Baraa Haj Khalaf receives a kiss from her mother, Fattoum Haj Khalaf, in February 2017 shortly after the family had arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Her daughter Sham is held by her sister Aya at right. (Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images)

The number of Muslim refugees admitted to the United States in the first half of fiscal 2018 has dropped from the previous year more than any other religious group, falling to nearly 1,800 compared with the roughly 22,900 admitted in all of fiscal 2017, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. State Department data. The low point in Muslim admissions was set in the year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The reduction in Muslim refugee admissions is part of an overall slowdown in admissions. About 10,500 refugees, including about 6,700 Christians, entered the U.S. from Oct. 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018 – far behind the 39,100 admissions at this point in fiscal 2017 (including 18,500 Muslims and 16,900 Christians). As a result of these changes, Christians account for a far larger share of refugees admitted than Muslims the first half of fiscal 2018 (63% vs. 17%). By comparison, in full fiscal 2017 Christians (47%) and Muslims (43%) were more evenly split, and in fiscal 2016 the Muslim share (46%) slightly exceeded the Christian share (44%).

The number of refugees who enter the U.S. in fiscal 2018 is expected to fall below the previous year’s total (53,700) because President Donald Trump’s administration capped admissions at 45,000 this year, the lowest since Congress created the current refugee program in 1980 for those fleeing persecution in their home countries. The slower pace of U.S. refugee admissions in fiscal 2018 is also due to the fact that the current administration restricted admissions for several months as part of a review that resulted in tougher security screening measures. Refugee admissions fully resumed in late January 2018.

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Topics: Immigration Trends, Muslims and Islam, Global Migration and Demography, Religious Affiliation, Migration, Immigration

May 3, 2018 7:00 am

Declining share of Americans would find it very hard to give up TV


An estimated 96.5% of U.S. households have a television. Yet only about a third of Americans say it would be “very hard” to give up their TV – substantially lower than the share of U.S. adults who say the same thing about their cellphone or the internet, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January.

Today, just 31% of Americans say it would be very hard to give up their TV, down 13 percentage points from a 2006 survey by the Center. In total, just over half of U.S. adults (55%) say their TV would be at least somewhat hard to give up.

In contrast, roughly half (52%) of cellphone owners say it would be very hard to give up their cellphone or smartphone, and a similar share of internet users (50%) say it would be very hard to give up the internet. Each represents a notable increase compared with 2006. In total, 74% of cellphone owners say it would be at least somewhat hard to give up their mobile device, and 73% of online adults say the same about the internet in general.

Although a growing share of Americans use various social media platforms, just 14% of these users say it would be very hard to give up social media entirely. That figure is largely unchanged from a survey conducted in 2014. At the same time, the share of social media users who say these platforms would be at least somewhat hard to give up has increased by 12 percentage points over that time (from 28% in 2014 to 40% today).

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Topics: Technology Adoption, Generations and Age

May 2, 2018 11:32 am

America’s incarceration rate is at a two-decade low

The U.S. incarceration rate fell in 2016 to its lowest level in 20 years, according to new data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the statistical arm of the Department of Justice. Despite the decline, the United States incarcerates a larger share of its population than any other country.

At the end of 2016, there were about 2.2 million people behind bars in the U.S., including 1.5 million under the jurisdiction of federal and state prisons and roughly 741,000 in the custody of locally run jails. That amounts to a nationwide incarceration rate of 860 prison or jail inmates for every 100,000 adults ages 18 and older.

The nation’s incarceration rate peaked at 1,000 inmates per 100,000 adults during the three-year period between 2006 and 2008. It has declined every year since then and is now at its lowest point since 1996, when there were 830 inmates per 100,000 adults.

The number of inmates in the U.S. has also gone down in recent years, though not as sharply as the incarceration rate (which takes population change into account). The estimated 2,162,400 inmates who were in prison or jail at the end of 2016 were the fewest since 2004, when there were 2,136,600 inmates. The prison and jail population peaked in 2008 at 2,310,300.

A variety of factors help explain why U.S. incarceration trends have been on a downward trajectory. Crime rates have declined sharply in recent decades despite an uptick in the violent crime rate between 2014 and 2016, according to FBI data. As crime has declined, so have arrests: The nationwide arrest rate has fallen steadily in recent years and is well below where it was in the 1990s, according to BJS.

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Topics: Criminal Justice

May 2, 2018 7:00 am

Millennials stand out for their technology use, but older generations also embrace digital life

Millennials have often led older Americans in their adoption and use of technology, and this largely holds true today. But there has also been significant growth in tech adoption in recent years among older generations – particularly Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

More than nine-in-ten Millennials (92%) own smartphones, compared with 85% of Gen Xers (those who turn ages 38 to 53 this year), 67% of Baby Boomers (ages 54 to 72) and 30% of the Silent Generation (ages 73 to 90), according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center data. Similarly, the vast majority of Millennials (85%) say they use social media. For instance, significantly larger shares of Millennials have adopted relatively new platforms such as Instagram (52%) and Snapchat (47%) than older generations have.

This analysis reflects the Center’s recent decision to establish 1996 as the final birth year of Millennials, marking that generation as those who turn ages 22 to 37 this year. (Those born in 1997 or later are post-Millennials.)

Unlike with smartphones and social media, Gen Xers have outpaced Millennials in tablet ownership for several years. The gap between them now stands at 10 percentage points, as 64% of Gen Xers and 54% of Millennials say they own tablets. A majority of Gen Xers also say they have broadband service at home. Some 73% of Gen Xers have home broadband, compared with 66% of Boomers and 34% of Silents.

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Topics: Baby Boomers, Millennials, Social Media, Mobile, Technology Adoption, Generations and Age

May 1, 2018 11:32 am

Few Americans see nation’s political debate as ‘respectful’

Most Americans have negative views of the tone of political debate in their country. And a sizable majority says personal insults are “never fair game” in politics.

The public’s views of the quality of the nation’s political discourse – or the lack of it – come from a new survey of opinions about democracy in the United States.

As is the case with a number of ideals and principles related to democracy in the U.S., a majority of Americans (61%) say it is very important that the tone of debate among political leaders is respectful.

Yet as with most other ideals, few say this is actually happening. Just 25% say the following statement – “The tone of debate among political leaders is respectful” – describes the country very (6%) or somewhat well (19%). Of the 16 aspects of the political system and democracy asked about in the survey, this rating is among the lowest.

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Topics: Trust, Facts and Democracy, U.S. Political Parties, Political Attitudes and Values

May 1, 2018 7:00 am

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. secondary schools have sworn officers on site – but not all the time

(Photo by Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
(Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Nearly two-thirds of public secondary schools in the United States (65%) had sworn law enforcement officers on site in the 2015-16 school year, up from 58% a decade earlier. Yet the presence of sworn officers varied considerably by factors including school size and the specific times the officers were present, according to a March report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics.

The report comes amid heightened attention to school security following the February mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. The shooting, which left 17 people dead, has led to protests and school walkouts around the country. It has also sparked discussions about policy responses to prevent school shootings, including proposals to let teachers carry firearms.

While the presence of sworn officers at secondary schools has become more common over the past decade, many schools report that these officers were only present at specific times rather than throughout the entire school day, according to the report (data are for the 2015-16 school year, the most recent available). Secondary schools include middle and high schools, as well as combined schools.

Less than half (46%) of secondary schools with sworn law enforcement officers present at least once a week had officers present for all instructional hours every day; larger shares of schools said officers were present when students were arriving or leaving (88%) or at selected school activities (87%), such as science fairs or athletic events.

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Topics: Education

Apr 30, 2018 7:00 am

Women scarce at top of U.S. business – and in the jobs that lead there

Despite the advances women have made in the workplace, they still account for a small share of top leadership jobs. That’s true in the fields of politics and government, academia, the nonprofit sector – and particularly business.

Women held only about 10% of the top executive positions (defined as chief executive officers, chief financial officers and the next three highest paid executives) at U.S. companies in 2016-17, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of federal securities filings by all companies in the benchmark Standard & Poor’s Composite 1500 stock index. And at the very top of the corporate ladder, just 5.1% of chief executives of S&P 1500 companies were women.

Nor do many women hold executive positions just below the CEO in the corporate hierarchy in terms of pay and position. Only 651 (11.5%) of the nearly 5,700 executives in this category, which includes such positions as chief operating officer (COO) and chief financial officer (CFO), were women. Although this group in general constitutes a significant pool of potential future CEO candidates, the women officers we identified tended to be in positions such as finance or legal that, previous research suggests, are less likely to lead to the CEO’s chair than other, more operations-focused roles.

Within the 11 broad economic sectors into which the 1500 companies are divided, in no case did women make up even a fifth of CEOs or non-CEO top executives. Nor do those levels appear likely to rise much anytime soon. A 2017 survey of corporate human-resource heads at large U.S. companies found that women made up only 10% of the short-term CEO candidate pool (i.e., people who’d be considered for promotion to CEO within the next three years). Looking out further, three to five years in the future, raised the share of women in the CEO candidate pool only to 15%.

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Topics: Gender, Business and Labor, Work and Employment