Jun 28, 2016 11:31 am

Blacks have made gains in U.S. political leadership, but gaps remain

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., flanked from left by Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Senate Judiciary ranking member Pat Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks during a news conference on criminal justice reform legislation in October 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks during a news conference on criminal justice reform legislation in October 2015. Booker and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., at far right, are the first two black U.S. senators to serve simultaneously. From left are Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking member Pat Leahy, D-Vt.; and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Barack Obama’s election to the highest political office in the land in 2008 was a proud moment for many Americans. It represented another advance in the slow but steady progress blacks have made in recent decades in gaining a greater foothold in political leadership, particularly in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the Cabinets of recent presidents. But they have lagged in the Senate and in governorships.

Many blacks view political representation as a potential catalyst for increased racial equality, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Roughly four-in-ten black adults (38%) say that working to get more black people elected to office would be a very effective tactic for groups striving to help blacks achieve equality. Whites are less likely to view this as an effective way to bring about increased racial equality (24% say it would be very effective).

Data from the past 50 years reveal the upward yet uneven trajectory of black political leadership in America. In 1965, there were no blacks in the U.S. Senate, nor were there any black governors. And only six members of the House of Representatives were black. By 2015, there was greater representation in some areas (44 House members were black) but little change in others (there were two black senators and one black governor). The share of blacks who have served in a presidential Cabinet, however, has been generally high – even above parity with the population – under administrations in the past two decades.

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Topics: African Americans, Congress, State and Local Government, U.S. Political Figures

Jun 28, 2016 7:00 am

Religious restrictions among the world’s most populous countries

Levels of religious restrictions and hostilities among the world’s 25 most populous countries — where more than 5 billion of the globe’s roughly 7.5 billion people live — vary tremendously, from some of the lowest in the world (Japan) to among the very highest (Egypt).

Religious Restrictions Worldwide 2007-2014In addition to Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey had some of the highest levels of religious restrictions, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center that uses 2014 data (the most recent year for which data were available). In these countries, both the government and society at large imposed numerous limits on religious beliefs and practices.

In Egypt, for example, there were several sectarian attacks during 2014. In March of that year, a Christian woman was attacked by a group of Muslim Brotherhood supporters when they saw a crucifix in her car. According to reports, the woman was pulled by her hair into the street, beaten and killed. And in Russia, the government passed a new law limiting activity at houses of worship. The law imposes strict new reporting requirements for religious groups seeking to organize events and ceremonies in public spaces, according to the U.S. Department of State’s annual International Religious Freedom report. Read More

Topics: Religion and Government, Religion and Society, Restrictions on Religion

Jun 27, 2016 11:00 am

5 key takeaways about views of race and inequality in America

A new Pew Research Center survey finds profound differences between black and white Americans in how they view the current state of race relations and racial equality and in the ways they experience day-to-day life.

Here are five key takeaways from the new report on race in America:

1Black and white Americans differ widely in views on race relationsWhites and blacks are split over the current state of race relations and what progress Obama has made on the issue. About six-in-ten blacks (61%) say race relations are generally bad, while about equal shares of whites say race relations are good as say they’re bad. Overall views on race relations are more positive now than they were a year ago, following the unrest in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died while in police custody. Even so, the public’s views of race relations are more negative now than they have been for much of the 2000s.

Following the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first black president in 2008, many voters were optimistic that his election would lead to better race relations. Today, about a third of Americans (34%) say Obama has made progress on improving race relations, while about three-in-ten (28%) say he has tried but failed to make progress. A quarter say the president has made race relations worse and 8% say he has not addressed race relations. Blacks are far more likely than whites or Hispanics to say Obama has made progress on race relations (51% vs. 28% and 38%, respectively). Among whites, Republicans are particularly likely to say the president has made race relations worse: 63% of white Republicans say this is the case. Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: African Americans, Race and Ethnicity, Socioeconomic Class

Jun 27, 2016 10:30 am

5 facts about abortion

More than four decades after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, opponents and supporters of abortion rights are still battling over the issue in court. Most recently, on June 27, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that required abortion clinics in the state to meet the same health and safety standards as medical centers that perform outpatient surgeries. The Texas law also required doctors who work at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision reversed a lower court ruling last year that had upheld the law. The high court’s ruling could very well seal the fate of similar laws in 12 other states, some of which were already on hold pending this latest ruling.

Texas officials had argued that the law was necessary to protect the health and safety of women. They pointed to cases such as that of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who in 2013 was convicted of killing babies born alive, as justification for tightening health regulations at clinics.

But abortion rights supporters countered that the statute was largely intended to make it impossible for most abortion providers in Texas to remain open. Indeed, they said, if the law had been upheld, only nine of what had until recently been 42 clinics in the state would ultimately remain open to serve an estimated 60,000 Texas women who seek abortions each year.

Meanwhile, public opinion on abortion has held relatively steady, with Americans roughly divided on the issue. Here are a few key facts about Americans’ views on the topic, based on recent Pew Research Center polling:

1When asked directly about the legality of abortion56% of U.S. adults say it should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 41% who say it should be illegal all or most of the time. In both cases, these figures have remained relatively stable for at least two decades.

2There is a substantial ideological divide on abortion, with Democrats much more likely than Republicans to say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. This gap is even larger between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans. Fully 84% of liberal Democrats say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with only three-in-ten self-described conservatives in the GOP. 

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Abortion

Jun 27, 2016 7:00 am

Partisanship in the U.S. isn’t just about politics, but how people see their neighbors

In an era of increasing polarization, Republicans and Democrats disagree over many things – and that extends even to the traits and habits they’d like or dislike in a new neighbor. Some of the widest gaps in how people of different parties see new neighbors are over new community members who own guns, don’t believe in God, regularly attend religious services or have served in the military.

A new Pew Research Center study of partisanship and political animosity finds that about four-in-ten Republicans (43%) and Democrats (42%) said it would be easier to befriend a new community member who shared their partisan affiliation. Conversely, 31% of Democrats and 27% of Republicans say it would be harder to get along with a new neighbor from the other party.

Yet the partisan differences over hypothetical characteristics of new neighbors go beyond their party or their ideology.

Meet the neighbors: Partisan differences over traits of new community members

Democrats express more negative views of gun ownership than any of the other 15 traits asked about in the survey – even more negative than the prospect of having a Republican or a conservative as a new neighbor. Read More

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation, Social Values, U.S. Political Parties

Jun 24, 2016 1:50 pm

Brexit vote highlighted UK’s discontent with EU, but other European countries are grumbling too

The decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union – known as Brexit – shines a spotlight on the divisions in public opinion between the UK and the continental members of the EU, and within the UK on a range of issues relating to the future of Europe.

The June 23 referendum – in which the public voted 52% to 48% to leave – is a reminder that the British have never been as enamored with the EU as most of their continental counterparts. Britons have criticized the EU for its handling of a range of issues, resent the loss of power to the Brussels-based institution and are divided among themselves about the institution they first joined in 1973.

More broadly, a Pew Research Center survey conducted this spring found that publics in a number of other EU countries share the British desire for a less, not more, centralized Europe, and that the debate about the future of the EU will not subside just because the UK has now voted.

1British consistently more negative on European UnionThe EU has never been as popular in the UK as it has been among other EU members. Just 44% of the public in the UK has a favorable view of the EU, compared with a median of 50% who hold a favorable opinion in five other EU nations surveyed by Pew Research Center. Support for the EU is down in the UK from a high of 52% in 2014. British views of the EU have consistently been lower than those on the continent for nearly a decade.

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Europe, International Governments and Institutions, International Organizations, Western Europe

Jun 23, 2016 11:30 am

It’s official: Minority babies are the majority among the nation’s infants, but only just

Photo credit: Bruce Forster/Getty Images
Photo credit: Bruce Forster/Getty Images

The U.S. is projected to have no racial or ethnic group as its majority within the next several decades, but that day apparently is already here for the nation’s youngest children, according to new Census Bureau population estimates.

Among newborns, minorities slightly surpass non-Hispanic whitesThe bureau’s estimates for July 1, 2015, released today, say that just over half – 50.2% – of U.S. babies younger than 1 year old were racial or ethnic minorities. In sheer numbers, there were 1,995,102 minority babies compared with 1,982,936 non-Hispanic white infants, according to the census estimates. The new estimates also indicate that this crossover occurred in 2013, so the pattern seems well established.

Pinpointing the exact year when minorities outnumbered non-Hispanic whites among newborns has been difficult. The change among newborns is part of a projected U.S. demographic shift from a majority-white nation to one with no racial or ethnic majority group that is based on long-running immigration and birth trends. But changes in short-term immigration flows and in fertility patterns can delay those long-term shifts. Read More

Topics: Birth Rate and Fertility, Demographics, Population Trends, U.S. Census

Jun 23, 2016 9:55 am

5 key findings about global restrictions on religion

Pew Research Center has been tracking data on religious restrictions in nearly 200 countries and territories since 2007, producing a series of annual reports that analyze religion-related social hostilities and government restrictions on religion.

Here are key findings from the latest report, which updates the data through 2014:

Religious restrictions and hostilities 2014

1Government restrictions on religion and social hostilities related to religion decreased somewhat between 2013 and 2014, the second consecutive year of decline. The share of countries with governments imposing high or very high levels of restrictions on religion dropped from 28% in 2013 to 24% in 2014. During the same period, the share of countries with high levels of social hostilities – those perpetrated by individuals or groups – also dropped, from 27% to 23%. (For more on the index used to determine these measures, see the full report.) Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Religion and Government, Religion and Society, Religious Extremism, Restrictions on Religion

Jun 22, 2016 2:00 pm

Greeks stand out among Europeans for putting domestic issues before global ones

Among Europeans, Greeks are the wariest of global engagement

At a time when many Europeans are looking inward after years of economic and political crises, the Greeks stand out as even more focused on their country’s own problems and as the most wary of global economic engagement.

Of 10 European Union nations recently surveyed by Pew Research Center, Greeks are at the top of the list in saying their country should focus on domestic issues and are the most inclined to say their country should act unilaterally even when its allies disagree. More than eight-in-ten Greeks (83%) say their country should deal with its own problems and let other countries deal with their own problems as best they can. And 74% of Greeks say that in foreign policy, their country should follow its own national interests, even when its allies strongly disagree. Greece is also the only EU country where a majority says global economic engagement is a bad thing because it lowers wages and costs jobs.  Read More

Topics: Europe, Foreign Affairs and Policy, World Economies

Jun 22, 2016 11:55 am

Key facts about partisanship and political animosity in America

The 2016 presidential campaign has highlighted the deep partisan divisions in the United States. A new Pew Research Center report finds that Republicans and Democrats now have more negative views of the opposing party than at any point in nearly a quarter century. These sentiments are not just limited to views of the parties and their policy proposals; they have a personal element as well.

Here are six key takeaways from the report:

1What Republicans and Democrats say about each otherMany Democrats and Republicans associate negative characteristics with members of the other party – and positive traits with their own. Fully 70% of Democrats say Republicans are more “closed-minded” than other Americans. Nearly as many Democrats (67%) say their fellow Democrats are more “open-minded.”

For Republicans, no single critique of Democrats stands out. But about half of Republicans (52%) view Democrats as more closed-minded than other Americans, while nearly as many say Democrats are more immoral (47%), lazier (46%) and more dishonest (45%). Republicans also see the members of their own party as more hard-working (59%) and more moral (51%) than other Americans. Read More

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: 2016 Election, Political Polarization, U.S. Political Parties