Jun 30, 2014 7:00 am

7 surprises about libraries in our surveys

The Pew Research Center’s studies about libraries and where they fit in the lives of their communities and patrons have uncovered some surprising facts about what Americans think of libraries and the way they use them. As librarians around the world are gathered in Las Vegas for the American Library Association’s annual conference, here are findings that stand out from our research, our typology of public library engagement and the quiz we just released that people can take to see where they compare with our national survey findings: What kind of library user are you?

1Library Use by AgeEach time we ask about library use, we find that those ages 65 and older are less likely to have visited a library in the past 12 months than those under that age. Equally as interesting is the fact that younger Americans (those ages 16-29) are just as likely to be library users as those who are older.

2Although 10% of Americans have never used a library, they think libraries are good for their communities. We’ve identified this group of library users as “Distant Admirers,” and they are the majority of the nearly 15% of Americans ages 16 and older who have never been to a library. Despite their lack of personal use of libraries, their positive views of libraries might stem from the fact that 40% of Distant Admirers report that someone else in their household is a library user. About two-thirds of them or more say libraries are important because they promote literacy and reading, that they play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed and they improve the quality of life in a community. Finally, 55% say the loss of the local library would be a blow to the community.

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Topics: Community Media, E-reading, Libraries

Jun 27, 2014 4:36 pm

Why the typology quiz questions are asked the way they are

The Pew Research Center released on Thursday our 2014 political typology, including the newest version of our political typology quiz, in which users can see where they fit in the current political landscape by answering 23 questions about core political values. Within the first 24 hours, more than 90,000 people had taken the quiz, and the last quiz, launched in 2011, had over 1.5 million users over three-plus years.

One of the strongest reactions we have received from some quiz-takers is frustration over the either-or choices each question offers. Many of the comments we’ve received say that the questions feel like choosing “between two extremes,” or that the “right answer is somewhere in between,” or that the options “aren’t really opposites.”

These are all legitimate concerns, and many of our own early users here on the Pew Research Center staff expressed the same frustrations. But there is a reason the questions are asked the way they are: The intent is not to put people “in a box” but rather to understand how their values across multiple political dimensions are related to each other.

FT_Quiz_QuestionTake a question like the one shown here. For many Americans, the two options present a very stark way of thinking about poverty, and it is a fair guess that many people have some level of agreement with both points of view. At the same time, this “forced choice” format reflects a fundamental debate in American politics right now, and most people at least lean one way or the other on this potentially difficult tradeoff. In fact, the American public as a whole splits almost exactly in two on this question – 44% select the first statement, 47% pick the second – and their choice is strongly related to their specific policy preferences and priorities in this realm.

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Topics: Political Typology, Research Methodology

Jun 27, 2014 1:38 pm

Ramadan a dilemma for some World Cup players

Muslim World Cup Players
Germany’s Mesut Ozil (l.), France’s Karim Benzema (c.) and Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri (r.). Credits: Ralph Orlowski/Reuters/Corbis, Marius Becker/dpa/Corbis, Ruben Sprich/Reuters/Corbis

Ramadan, which begins this weekend, is widely observed by Muslims around the world with fasting from sunrise until sundown. That creates a potential dilemma for Muslim players at the World Cup whose teams have advanced to the knockout stage of the tournament, as the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the World Cup overlap for the first time since 1986.

Although the exact religious makeup of the teams’ rosters is unclear, Muslims comprise 11% of the collective population of the 16 countries that advanced out of the tournament’s group stage, according to 2010 data from the Pew Research Center’s Global Religious Landscape report. Several prominent players on teams that are still alive – including Germany’s Mesut Ozil, France’s Karim Benzema and Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri – are practicing Muslims. The national team of Algeria, a country comprised of 98% Muslims, advanced on a goal by Islam Slimani and will face Germany on Monday.

While some Muslim athletes choose to fast while competing, others see room for interpretation in the Quran, which instructs “whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days.” Some Islamic leaders endorse fasting at a later date, especially if it is “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an athlete,” a London-based imam told the soccer website Goal.com in 2011. The High Egyptian Islamic Council even issued a fatwa before the 2012 London Olympics, allowing athletes to eat and drink during Ramadan.  Read More

Topics: Muslims and Islam, Religion and Society

Jun 27, 2014 12:07 pm

Chart of the Week: A century of U.S. political history


Anyone (well, almost anyone) could make a map, or even a series of maps, about party control of Congress over time. But turning that data into an interactive that’s in its own way as addictive as Minecraft or Fruit Ninja is something else again, which is where MapStory comes in.

MapStory is a nonprofit that’s created a online, open-source mapping platform to enable people to create and share data visualizations. Mapmakers have created timeline maps to illustrate everything from charter-school expansion in Minnesota to the proliferation of wind farms across the United States. But this interactive, uploaded to MapStory earlier this month by Jonathan Davis of Arizona State University, stands out both for the sheer amount of information it conveys and how darned fun it is to play with.

Starting in 1918, you can simply play the animation forward to 2012 and watch the shifting patterns of party control of the House of Representatives. Davis’ map also lets you freeze on specific years and zoom in to see individual districts; it also shows the handful of minor-party representatives who’ve gotten themselves elected to Congress over the decades. (That’s catnip for political-trivia buffs: Who knew that the Prohibition Party held a congressional seat in California in the years leading up to the 18th Amendment?)

Comparing past and present, a couple of related points become clear. First, districts have become more and more jigsaw-puzzle-like, as sophisticated mapping software and detailed demographic data have combined to make gerrymandering a fine art. And partly as a consequence, Democratic and Republican seats were more geographically intermixed in 2012 than in 1918, when virtually all seats in the South and Southwest states were held by Democrats and most Northern states were dominated by the GOP.

Category: Chart of the Week

Topics: Congress, U.S. Political Parties

Jun 26, 2014 2:00 pm

New political typology data show islands of agreement amid sea of polarization

Given how polarized American politics and society are these days, it’s easy to think of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, as entrenched and embittered enemies locked in endless battle. But sometimes politics does indeed make strange bedfellows, and data from the Pew Research Center’s latest political typology report show some surprising areas of agreement between otherwise opposing groups.

Who are the political typology groups?

Steadfast Conservatives: Generally critical of government, especially social safety net programs, but also critical of big business and immigrants. Most are very socially conservative.

Business Conservatives: Overall, critical of government regulation and social-welfare spending, but not of big business. For the most part, moderate to liberal on social issues, with positive views toward immigrants.

Young Outsiders: Tend to be distrustful of government programs and fiscally conservative, but very liberal on social issues and not very religious.

Hard-Pressed Skeptics: Generally distrustful of government, except for social safety net spending. On average, low-income, anti-immigrant compared with other groups.

Next Generation Left: Generally positive feelings about government, but less so for social programs. Tend to be business-oriented and individualistic.

Faith and Family Left: By and large, highly religious, socially conservative, but strongly support social safety net and government action more broadly.

Solid Liberals: Overall, highly supportive of social programs, immigrants and government generally; very skeptical of business and markets. Consistently liberal on social issues, from homosexuality to environmental protection.

Take, for example, the question of whether the U.S. government should collect telecommunications data as part of its anti-terrorism efforts. Opposition to such practices is highest at both ends of the political spectrum: 69% of Steadfast Conservatives, 61% of Business Conservatives and 58% of Solid Liberals say they disapprove of government data collection.

strange_bedfellows (1)When it comes to immigration, Steadfast Conservatives and Hard-Pressed Skeptics — two groups which otherwise have little in common — share similarly negative views: 79% of the Hard-Pressed group and 73% of the Steadfast group call immigrants a burden on American society, while 81% of Steadfasts and 72% of the Hard-Pressed say newcomers threaten “traditional American customs and values.” Those two groups also express the most support for a national effort to deport all illegal immigrants: 42% of Steadfasts and 31% of the Hard-Pressed favor such a policy.  Read More

Topics: Political Typology

Jun 26, 2014 11:58 am

Q/A: How Pew Research created the political typology

Scott Keeter, Director of Survey Research, Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center has been doing its Political Typology reports every few years since the first one in 1987. The typology study published today is a follow-up to our report on political polarization in America and draws on the sample of 10,013 adults nationwide surveyed earlier this year. We asked Scott Keeter, Director of Survey Research, to explain why – and how — we do this particular analysis.

Why did you create the political typology?

The goal of the political typology is to sort people into homogeneous groups, based on their political values and attitudes. It’s an effort to categorize people politically to help us better understand the complexities of the current political landscape. This kind of “clustering” gives us a way to quickly summarize a large amount of complex information, to understand differences among people, and to help predict how people are going to act in the future.

The urge to categorize is so strong that it is almost a part of being human. People have long tried to classify the things they deal with in life, whether we’re talking about animals, vegetables, minerals, diseases, songs, celestial objects – but we especially like to classify humans.  Read More

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Polarization, Political Typology, Research Methodology

Jun 26, 2014 11:22 am

Falloff in births slows shift to a majority-minority youth population

The sharp decline in U.S. births after the onset of the Great Recession—especially among Hispanics—has slowed the nation’s transition to a majority-minority youth population, according to new Census Bureau data released today. Among newborns, nearly equal share of minorities and non-Hispanic whites, Census data showsThe bureau’s population estimates for July 1, 2013, show that young Americans are far more likely than older ones to be racial or ethnic minorities, defined as anyone who is not a single-race non-Hispanic white. Among Americans younger than five, half were minorities in 2013. Among those ages 80 and older, more than 80% were non-Hispanic white. But minorities are not yet the majority of any age group, even babies, in the bureau’s new estimates. Among the nation’s 3.9 million children younger than age 1 in 2013, there were about 3,000 more non-Hispanic whites than minorities—essentially equal shares. In addition, the bureau published revised estimates today for 2011 and 2012 that also showed slightly more non-Hispanic whites than minorities in that youngest age group. Read More

Topics: Birth Rate and Fertility, Demographics, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, U.S. Census

Jun 26, 2014 7:00 am

U.S. Hispanic and Asian populations growing, but for different reasons

The distinction of being the fastest-growing racial/ethnic group in the United States has alternated between Asians and Hispanics in recent decades. Since 2010, though, Asians have had the edge. New Census Bureau data estimate that the U.S. Hispanic population topped 54 million as of July 1, 2013, an increase of 2.1% over 2012. Meanwhile, the Asian population grew to 19.4 million, with a growth rate of 2.9%.

Hispanic population growth fueled mainly by Y.S. births; Asians by MigrationU.S. births have been the primary driving force behind the increase in the Hispanic population since 2000 and that trend continued between 2012 and 2013. The Census Bureau estimates that natural increase (births minus deaths) accounted for 78% of the total change in the U.S. Hispanic population from 2012 to 2013.

By comparison, growth in the Asian American population has been fueled primarily by immigration. Fully 74% of Asian adults in 2012 were foreign born according to Pew Research Center analysis of Census data, and international migration accounted for about 61% of the total change in the Asian American population from 2012 to 2013. (Asian American figures represent the population who reported their race alone or in combination with one or more races, and includes Hispanics. Hispanics are of any race.)

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Topics: Asian Americans, Demographics, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Immigration Trends, Race and Ethnicity

Jun 24, 2014 2:11 pm

After decades of GOP support, Cubans shifting toward the Democratic Party

Cubans in the U.S. have long identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party, even as Hispanics overall have tilted Democrat. But the party affiliation of Cubans has undergone a shift over the past decade, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of survey data.

Political Affiliation Among U.S. CubansLess than half (47%) of Cuban registered voters nationwide now say they identify with or lean toward the Republican Party—down from the 64% who said the same about the GOP a decade ago, according to 2013 survey data. Meanwhile, the share of Cubans who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party has doubled from 22% to 44% over the same time period, according to the survey of Hispanics.

The Cuban population in the U.S. is centered in Florida, home to seven-in-ten of the nation’s 2 million Cuban-origin Hispanics. In the 1960s, the state’s Cuban immigrant population boomed as many left the island after Fidel Castro’s rise to power. The concentration of Cuban voters subsequently helped push the overall Hispanic vote toward the Republican Party in the Sunshine State. In 2004, for example, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush won 78% of the Cuban vote in Florida, compared with 56% of the state’s Hispanics overall.  Read More

Topics: Hispanic/Latino Vote, Political Party Affiliation, Race and Ethnicity, U.S. Political Parties

Jun 23, 2014 7:00 am

Five years in, recovery still underwhelms compared with previous ones

Most Americans say the economy is improving, but not too stronglyAs of this month, the U.S. economy’s recovery from the Great Recession is five years old. But given how most Americans rate it, they can be forgiven for not feeling much in the mood for cake and ice cream.

In a Pew Research Center survey from April, only 6% of Americans said the economy was recovering strongly. Two-thirds (66%) said the economy was recovering, but not very strongly; about a quarter (26%) said it wasn’t recovering at all. The same survey found that Americans’ financial self-assessment had barely budged since June 2009, when the recession officially ended: 37% rated their financial situation “excellent” or “good,” 39% “only fair,” and 23% “poor.”

Americans' Financial Self-AssessmentThat persistent economic pessimism is warranted. By several measures — gross domestic product, personal income, job growth and employment ratio — the current recovery is among the weakest on record, particularly given its duration. Unless the economy’s official scorekeepers change their minds, the recovery already has lasted 60 months — the fifth-longest expansion since the end of World War II. (Economists divide economic cycles into two phases: expansion (or recovery) and recession. The current recovery is considered to have begun in June 2009, the trough of the recession that started when the economy peaked in December 2007.)  Read More

Topics: Economic and Business News, Economic Recession, Economics and Personal Finances, National Economy