Jun 26, 2018 7:00 am

More and more, Senate elections reflect states’ presidential votes

The results of U.S. Senate elections increasingly are aligned with states’ party preferences in presidential elections – a trend that could have major implications in this year’s battle for control of the Senate.

Most Senate races go to the same party as states' presidential voteThe vast majority of the regular and special Senate elections held since 2013 – 69 of 73 – have been won by candidates who belonged to the party that won that state’s most recent presidential race, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of election results going back to 1980. That represents a marked contrast with prior years: As recently as 2006, 12 of 33 Senate contests (36%) were won by candidates of different parties than their state’s 2004 presidential pick. (The election data we used came mostly from the Federal Election Commission, supplemented by information from the U.S. House Clerk’s office and media reports.)

There are 35 Senate seats at stake this November – 33 regularly scheduled elections, plus special elections in Minnesota and Mississippi. Of those, 18 seats are in states that went for Republican Donald Trump in 2016, while 17 are in states that favored Democrat Hillary Clinton. Democrats (and two independents who caucus with them) currently hold 26 of those seats, including 10 in states that voted for Trump. Republicans hold nine of the seats up for grabs this year, but only one in a Clinton state.

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Topics: Congress, Political Polarization, 2018 Election

Jun 22, 2018 7:00 am

Many in U.S. have confidence in what private space companies will accomplish

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 6 for a demonstration mission. NASA has contracted with private companies such as SpaceX to develop launch systems that might send astronauts into space as early as this year. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Most Americans express confidence that private space companies will make meaningful contributions in developing safe and reliable spacecraft or conducting research to expand knowledge of space, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Private companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are becoming increasingly important players in space exploration. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has paid private companies $6.8 billion to develop launch systems that might send astronauts into space as early as this year. These companies are also setting their sights on going to the moon or Mars in the future.

Many are confident private space companies will be profitable but skeptical they will keep space cleanA large majority of Americans (81%) are confident that private space companies will make a profit from these ventures. Some 44% of Americans have a great deal of confidence that private space companies will be profitable, and an additional 36% have a fair amount of confidence.

But Americans are also cautiously optimistic that private companies will make contributions that benefit U.S. exploration efforts. At least two-thirds of Americans have a great deal or a fair amount of confidence that private space companies will build safe and reliable rockets and spacecraft (77%), conduct basic research to increase knowledge and understanding of space (70%) or control costs for developing rockets and spacecraft (65%).

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Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Business and Labor, Science and Innovation

Jun 21, 2018 1:01 pm

The news that bots share on Twitter tends not to focus on politics

Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, much attention has been focused on the role of bots in promoting political news on Twitter. But bots can play a role in spreading many other types of news and information as well.

Indeed, a new Pew Research Center analysis finds that suspected bots are far more active in sharing links to news sites focusing on nonpolitical content than to sites with a political focus. And when they do share political news on Twitter, suspected bots are more likely to link to sites with ideologically centrist audiences than to ones with staunchly liberal or conservative followings.

More about this analysis

To conduct the analysis, researchers examined 108,552 tweeted links to 50 popular news websites sent during a six-week period in the summer of 2017. The sites all produce original content and include those associated with legacy news organizations (outlets that originated in print or broadcast) as well as digital-native sites (outlets that were “born on the web”). Researchers identified potential bot accounts by using a multistep process that is explained here.

Here are some key findings from the analysis:

1Suspected bots share a smaller proportion of links to popular news sites compared with other kinds of websites. Suspected bots shared 59% of tweeted links to the 50 news sites in the analysis. While that figure may sound high, it is lower than the average from a previous Pew Research Center analysis, which found that suspected bots shared 66% of tweeted links to a broader set of more than 2,000 popular websites, including sites focused on commercial products, sports and other subjects.

The 50 sites in the news analysis include the digital versions of print newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as sites for television and radio broadcasting organizations such as CNN, Fox News and NPR.

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Topics: Social Media, Emerging Technology Impacts, Data Labs, News Sources

Jun 21, 2018 12:00 pm

Differing views of immigrants pose a test for Germany’s coalition government

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, of the ruling Christian Democratic Union, talks with Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who heads the Christian Social Union, before a cabinet meeting on June 13 in Berlin. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its longtime Bavarian political partner, the Christian Social Union (CSU), are locked in a struggle over German immigration policy that could, if not resolved, lead to the fall of the Merkel government.

These differences are also evident among backers of the two parties, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Supporters of German coalition parties have different views on effects of immigrationBoth CDU (76%) and CSU (81%) adherents believe it is necessary for immigrants to adopt German customs and traditions, according to the survey, conducted among 1,983 German adults in late 2017. However, differences emerge when those who identify with the two conservative parties are asked about the impact of immigrants on German society.

Nearly seven-in-ten CSU supporters (68%) say immigrants increase the risk of terrorist attacks in Germany, compared with 47% of CDU backers. Similarly, 27% of those who identify with the CSU voice the view that immigrants are a burden on the German economy, but just 13% of CDU supporters feel the same way.

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Topics: Western Europe, Immigration Attitudes, Global Migration and Demography, Migration, International Governments and Institutions, Europe, Immigration

Jun 21, 2018 10:03 am

Key findings on the global rise in religious restrictions

Restrictions on religion increased around the world in 2016, according to Pew Research Center’s ninth annual study on global restrictions on religion. This is the second year in a row that overall restrictions on religion – whether the result of government actions or by individuals or societal groups – increased in the 198 countries included in the study.

Here are some of the key findings from the new report:

1Government restrictions on religion continued to climb in 2016More than a quarter (28%) of countries had “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions on religion in 2016, an increase from 25% the year before. This is the largest share of countries in these categories since 2013. Countries in the “high” or “very high” categories scored at least a 4.5 on the Government Restrictions Index. The index is a 10-point scale based on 20 indicators of government restrictions on religion, including limits on proselytizing and public preaching, or detentions and assaults of religious group members. Laos, for example, joined the “very high” restrictions category in 2016, due in part to a new government decree that allows the Ministry of Home Affairs to stop any religious activity that it sees as counter to policies, traditional customs or laws within its jurisdiction.

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Topics: Religion and Society, Restrictions on Religion

Jun 20, 2018 2:02 pm

Most Americans lack confidence in Trump to deal appropriately with Mueller probe

Special counsel Robert Mueller following a meeting with Senate Judiciary Committee members at the U.S. Capitol in June 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

As special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Russian involvement in the 2016 election continues, most Americans express confidence in him to conduct a fair investigation. But the public is far less confident in Donald Trump to handle matters related to the investigation appropriately.

Republicans and Democrats offer starkly different assessments of Mueller’s conduct of the investigation and Trump’s ability to deal with it, and these partisan differences extend to views of the importance of the investigation itself.

Overall, most Americans (55%) say they are either very (28%) or somewhat (27%) confident that Mueller will conduct a fair investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Four-in-ten say they are not too (19%) or not at all confident (21%) in his ability to do this.

Most Americans lack confidence in Trump to handle matters related to Mueller investigationThe public expresses less confidence in Trump. Just 41% say they are very or somewhat confident that he will handle matters related to the special counsel investigation appropriately, while most (57%) say they are not too or not at all confident that he will do this, according to a national Pew Research Center survey conducted June 5-12 among 2,002 adults.

Confidence in Mueller has edged lower since March, when 61% were confident he would lead a fair investigation. Views have shifted, in part, due to declining assessments among Republicans.

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Topics: Trust in Institutions, U.S. Political Figures, Donald Trump

Jun 19, 2018 1:01 pm

Family life is changing in different ways across urban, suburban and rural communities in the U.S.

(Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Changes in marriage and childbearing have reshaped the American family over the past half-century. Adults are marrying later in life, and a rising share are forgoing marriage altogether. The rise in unmarried people, in turn, has contributed to increasing shares of U.S. births outside of marriage and children living with an unmarried parent.

While these trends are occurring nationwide, they are playing out somewhat differently across urban, suburban and rural counties, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Some of these variations are linked to demographic differences across the three community types – for instance, urban areas have higher shares of black residents, and rural areas have higher shares of older people.

Marriage somewhat less common in urban countiesOverall, almost half (48%) of Americans ages 15 and older are married. The share is somewhat lower in urban areas (44%) than in suburban and rural areas (50% and 51%, respectively).

Differences in race and ethnicity account for some of these disparities, since urban areas have a larger share of black residents, who are typically less likely to be married than other racial groups. Even so, the marriage gap across community types remains when looking only at whites: 49% of urban whites are married, compared with 53% of suburban whites and 54% of rural whites. And among blacks, those living in suburban areas are somewhat more likely to be married (32%) than those living in rural (27%) or urban (26%) areas.

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Topics: Demographics, Family and Relationships, Marriage and Divorce, Parenthood, Household and Family Structure

Jun 19, 2018 12:01 pm

Western Europeans vary in their nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-religious minority attitudes

Protesters carry a banner reading “Refugees not welcome” during a demonstration of right-wing extremists in Dortmund, Germany, in April. (David Young/Picture Alliance/Getty Images)

Nationalist and anti-immigrant attitudes in Western Europe have been an issue in a number of recent national elections around the region, particularly after the influx in the past few years of refugees from predominantly Muslim countries. But Western Europeans vary by country when it comes to having positive or negative views about immigrants and religious minorities, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

To better examine the prevalence of these attitudes, the Center developed a scale to measure the extent of Nationalist, anti-Immigrant and anti-religious Minority (NIM) sentiment. The NIM scale combines answers to 22 survey questions on a wide range of issues including views on Muslims, Jews and immigrants, as well as immigration policy.

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Topics: Immigration Attitudes, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Immigration, National and Cultural Identity

Jun 18, 2018 1:05 pm

Americans broadly support legal status for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children

Most Americans favor granting legal status to immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as childrenMost Americans favor granting permanent legal status to immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children. And a 56% majority opposes substantially expanding the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans favor granting permanent legal status to immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children, while just 20% are opposed, according to a new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted June 5-12 among 2,002 adults. Opinions on this issue – and views of expanding the U.S.-Mexico border wall – have changed little since January.

Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents overwhelmingly favor granting legal status to those who came to the U.S. illegally as children (89%), as do about half of Republicans and Republican leaners (54%); about a third of Republicans (36%) oppose this policy. (The findings in this survey do not relate to the current controversy over separating immigrants from their children at the border, but only to children who had already arrived in the U.S. with their families.)

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Topics: Immigration Attitudes, Immigration

Jun 18, 2018 10:11 am

Q&A: Telling the difference between factual and opinion statements in the news

News consumers today are confronted with a tangle of statements and assertions that run the gamut from purely factual to purely opinion. Being able to quickly tell where a news statement fits on that spectrum is key to being an informed reader or viewer. But how good are Americans at distinguishing factual news statements from opinions? A new Pew Research Center report attempts to answer that question. Below, Amy Mitchell, the Center’s director of journalism research, explains how the study was put together and what it found.

This is a different sort of study than the news and knowledge quizzes that the Center has used in the past. Why did you want to address the question of people’s ability to distinguish factual from opinion news statements?

Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research at Pew Research Center
Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research at Pew Research Center

When getting their news these days, Americans need to quickly decide how to understand news-related statements that can come in snippets or with little or no context. At the same time, there’s a growing political divide in which sources Americans get news from and trust. For us, this raises questions about how well the public is equipped to parse through news in the current environment.

And so we studied a basic step in that process: differentiating factual statements – ones that can be proved or disproved with objective evidence – from opinion statements, which are expressions of beliefs or values. Americans’ ability to make this distinction may shape their ability to undertake some of the other tasks being asked of them as news consumers, such as fact-checking or differentiating straight reporting from op-eds.

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Topics: Trust, Facts and Democracy, News Audience Trends and Attitudes