Apr 13, 2018 7:00 am

U.S. foreign policy experts are more pessimistic about democracy than their European counterparts

Comstock Images
Comstock Images

At a time of rising concerns about the future of democracy around the world, foreign policy experts on opposite sides of the Atlantic have markedly different assessments of the way democracy is working in their countries, with Americans holding a bearish view and their European counterparts more upbeat.

Fewer than three-in-ten American foreign policy experts (27%) say they are satisfied with the state of democracy in the United States. By contrast, 64% of European thought leaders are satisfied with how their democracy is functioning.

These assessments come from a recent canvass of attendees at the German Marshall Fund’s annual Brussels Forum and of alumni of various GMF fellowship and educational programs. Respondents included 237 Europeans and 110 Americans.

American foreign policy experts are also more pessimistic than their European counterparts when it comes to trust in their country’s national government. About four-in-ten U.S. experts (42%) say they trust their government to do what is right for the country. Among European foreign policy thought leaders, the share who say this is 19 percentage points higher (61%).

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Topics: Foreign Affairs and Policy, Europe, North America, Democracy

Apr 12, 2018 12:06 pm

5 facts about religion in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting in London on March 7, 2018. (Dan Kitwood/WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting in London on March 7, 2018. (Dan Kitwood/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Since his father became Saudi Arabia’s king in 2015, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has taken dramatic steps to change his country’s political and economic life. But the 32-year-old heir to the throne also has begun to soften the kingdom’s strict religious rules with a promise to return to “moderate Islam.” Among the changes he’s spearheaded: granting women the right to drive, reintroducing cinemas and curbing the sweeping powers of the religious police.

Here are five facts about religion in Saudi Arabia — a country that is the birthplace of Islam and, as such, holds special importance for Muslims worldwide.  

1Saudi Arabia has a young and rapidly growing Muslim population. The kingdom has more than 30 million inhabitants, and roughly 93% of them are Muslim, according to Pew Research Center data. The country is officially a Muslim nation and most Saudi Muslims are Sunni. However, a Shia minority accounts for an estimated 10% to 15% of the population. Additionally, Saudi Arabia is a young country: In 2015, about 56% of the kingdom’s Muslims were under the age of 30. The number of Muslims in Saudi Arabia is projected to increase 51% between 2015 and 2050, though their share of the global Muslim population is expected to remain small at about 2%.

2Saudi Arabia is home to two of Islam’s holiest cities: Mecca, where the Prophet Muhammad was born, and Medina, where he is buried. Every year, during the hajj, millions of Muslims from around the world travel to Mecca to complete the six-day pilgrimage to the Kaaba shrine. While the hajj is required once in the lifetime of every able-bodied adult Muslim who can afford it, adherents of the faith also travel to Mecca during other times of the year to complete the shorter, voluntary umrah pilgrimage.

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Topics: Muslims and Islam, Religious Affiliation, Middle East and North Africa

Apr 12, 2018 10:00 am

Proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution seldom go anywhere

The House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Similar proposals have failed repeatedly in the past – most recently in 2011 – but changing the Constitution to require that federal spending not exceed revenue remains a perennial goal of fiscal conservatives.

Since 1999, in fact, 134 separate balanced-budget amendments have been formally introduced in either the House or Senate, making it the single most popular subject of amendment proposals over that timespan, according to our analysis of legislative data from the Library of Congress. Just in the current Congress, there are 18 separate balanced-budget proposals, out of a total of 64 proposed amendments to the Constitution.

Congress came closest to sending a balanced-budget amendment to the states for ratification in the mid-1990s. In January 1995, the House approved such an amendment 300-132, but an amended version failed twice in the Senate, first in March 1995 (65-35) and again in June 1996 (64-35).

The U.S. Constitution is famously difficult to amend: It takes a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate, then ratification by three-quarters of the states. Although Congress can also call a convention to propose amendments upon application by two-thirds of the states, that threshold has never been reached and there are many unanswered questions about how such a convention might work in practice. Of the roughly 12,000 amendments proposed since the Constitutional Convention, only 33 have gone to the states for ratification, and just 27 have made it all the way into the Constitution. (In contrast, India adopted its constitution nearly 69 years ago and it’s already been amended 101 times.)

Since 1999, members of Congress have introduced 747 proposed constitutional amendments, or an average of nearly 75 per two-year term. They have covered dozens of topics, from lengthening House terms (from two to four years) to prohibiting any future attempt to replace the U.S. dollar with a hypothetical global currency. But not one has become part of the Constitution, or even come close. In fact, the last time a proposed amendment gained the necessary two-thirds support in both the House and Senate was 1978, when a measure giving District of Columbia residents voting representation in Congress was sent to the states for ratification. Only 16 states had ratified it when the seven-year time limit expired.

The vast majority of proposed amendments die quiet, little-mourned deaths in committees and subcommittees. Only 20 times since 1999 have proposed amendments even been voted on by the full House or Senate, according to our analysis; this week’s vote in the House would be the 21st. The most recent instance before this week was in September 2014, when a campaign-finance amendment failed in the Senate on a procedural vote.

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Topics: Congress, Federal Government

Apr 11, 2018 3:00 pm

Near-record number of House members not seeking re-election in 2018

House Speaker Paul Ryan waves to colleagues at the Capitol shortly after his election to the leadership position in October 2015. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
House Speaker Paul Ryan waves to colleagues at the Capitol shortly after his election to the leadership position in October 2015. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s announcement Wednesday that he would not seek re-election adds a big name to what was already shaping up to be a near-record year of seat turnovers in the U.S. House of Representatives. More House members are choosing not to run for re-election to that body than at any time in the past quarter-century – including a record number of Republicans, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

As of April 11, 55 representatives (38 Republicans and 17 Democrats) have announced they’re not running for new terms, according to our count. In addition, one Republican (Blake Farenthold of Texas) and one Democrat (John Conyers of Michigan) have resigned. That makes a total of 57 voluntary departures, or 13% of the House’s full voting membership.

Those counts could rise further, since the filing deadlines in several states haven’t yet passed. Still, the number of retirements so far this year is the most since 1992, when 65 representatives (41 Democrats and 24 Republicans) chose not to pursue re-election; 51 retired outright, while 14 decided to run for some other office. Based on our analysis and a tally going back to 1930 compiled by Vital Statistics on Congress, 1992 is the record year for voluntary House departures.

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Topics: Congress, Federal Government, 2018 Election

Apr 11, 2018 11:00 am

Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. labor force

More than one-in-three American labor force participants (35%) are Millennials, making them the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

As of 2017 – the most recent year for which data are available – 56 million Millennials (those ages 21 to 36 in 2017) were working or looking for work. That was more than the 53 million Generation Xers, who accounted for a third of the labor force. And it was well ahead of the 41 million Baby Boomers, who represented a quarter of the total. Millennials surpassed Gen Xers in 2016.

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Topics: Millennials, Work and Employment, Generations and Age

Apr 10, 2018 1:31 pm

2020 census will ask about same-sex marriages for the first time

A new question about citizenship on the 2020 census form is in the headlines these days, but the U.S. Census Bureau also plans other changes for the next national count. Among them: For the first time, the agency will add specific check boxes for same-sex couples to identify themselves, and it will ask people who check the white or black race boxes to say more about their national origins.

The bureau’s list of 2020 questions, sent to Congress for review late last month, also was notable for what it did not include. Despite years of research into possible benefits of combining the race and Hispanic questions on the form, the bureau will continue to ask them separately. Bureau researchers had said the combined question produced more complete and accurate data, especially about Hispanics. The census form also will not include a much-researched check box for people of Middle Eastern or North African origins.

The 2020 census is to ask seven data questions: age, sex, Hispanic origin, race, relationship status, homeownership status (own or rent) and citizenship. The bureau also listed several follow-up questions it will ask to make sure that everyone who usually lives in the household being surveyed is included.

The citizenship question, which has been challenged in court, will be asked last to “minimize any impact on decennial census response rates,” according to a memo from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department oversees the Census Bureau.

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Topics: Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, U.S. Census, Social Values, Demographics, Marriage and Divorce, Race and Ethnicity

Apr 10, 2018 11:02 am

5 facts about Americans and Facebook

Facebook is in the national spotlight this week as its co-founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, testifies before Congress. Zuckerberg is expected to face questions from lawmakers over the company’s recent disclosure that data on up to 87 million of its users may have been improperly shared with a political consulting firm during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. His trip to Capitol Hill comes as many Americans express concerns over the way social media firms are handling personal information.

Here are five facts about Americans’ use of Facebook, drawn from recent Pew Research Center surveys:

1Around two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) use Facebook, according to a survey conducted in January 2018. That’s unchanged from April 2016, the last time the Center asked, but up from 54% of adults in August 2012. With the exception of YouTube – the video-sharing platform used by 73% of adults – no other major social media platform comes close to Facebook in terms of usage. Around a third of Americans say they use Instagram (35%) while smaller shares say they use Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter and WhatsApp.

2Facebook is popular among all demographic groups, though some groups are more likely to use it than others. Nearly three-quarters of women in the U.S. (74%) use the platform, compared with 62% of men. There are differences by community type and education level, too: People in urban areas are more likely than those in suburban or rural areas to use Facebook, as are those with a college degree when compared with people who have lower levels of education. Around eight-in-ten (81%) of those ages 18 to 29 use Facebook; that’s about double the share among those 65 and older (41%). However, the share of older Americans who use the platform has doubled since August 2012, when just 20% of those 65 and older said they used it.

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Topics: Social Media, Technology Adoption

Apr 9, 2018 1:00 pm

The narrowing, but persistent, gender gap in pay

The gender gap in pay has narrowed since 1980, but it has remained relatively stable over the past 15 years or so. In 2017, women earned 82% of what men earned, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers in the United States. Based on this estimate, it would take an extra 47 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2017.

By comparison, the Census Bureau found that full-time, year-round working women earned 80% of what their male counterparts earned in 2016.

Our analysis finds that the 2017 wage gap was smaller for adults ages 25 to 34 than for all workers ages 16 and older. Women in this age group earned 89 cents for every dollar a man in the same age group earned.

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Topics: Gender, Income Inequality, Work and Employment, Income

Apr 9, 2018 11:00 am

5 things to know about bots on Twitter

It’s no secret that there are bots on Twitter. But how do bot accounts – which automatically create tweets without direct human oversight – actually affect the mix of content on Twitter?

A new Pew Research Center study, conducted over a six-week period in the summer of 2017, examined 1.2 million tweets with URL links to determine what share of links were posted by bots on Twitter. The study identified bots using Botometer, which learns patterns from hand-classified account data produced by trained experts.

To count how many times human and bot accounts shared links to particular websites, we wrote a computer program to follow each shared link to its destination. Then we isolated the 2,315 most commonly shared sites with meaningful content and classified the kinds of content that appear on those sites.

Here are five key takeaways from the study:

1Two-thirds (66%) of all tweeted links were shared by suspected bots. This includes links to different kinds of content around the web, ranging from adult content to commercial products and even to links that redirect internally to Twitter.com. This estimate suggests that automated accounts are more prolific than human users in sharing links on Twitter.

2Suspected bots also accounted for 66% of tweeted links to sites focused on news and current events. That’s a lower share than for sites focused on adult content (90%), sports (76%) and commercial products (73%), but higher than for sites focused on celebrities (62%), those focused on organizations or groups (53%) or internal links to Twitter.com (50%). News and current events websites include sites that produce original reporting on events in public life, those that mostly aggregate news from other sites, and those that focus primarily on commentary or discussion.  Read More

Topics: Online Communities, Internet Activities, Emerging Technology Impacts

Apr 6, 2018 7:00 am

Christian women in the U.S. are more religious than their male counterparts

A woman prays at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A woman prays at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

In many parts of the world, women – especially Christian women – are more religious than men. In the United States, where seven-in-ten adults are Christian, this religion gender gap is actually greater than it is a number of other developed nations, including Canada, the UK, Germany and France.

More than seven-in-ten U.S. Christian women (72%) say religion is “very important” in their lives, compared with 62% of the country’s Christian men, according to Pew Research Center’s 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study. Roughly eight-in-ten Christian women also say they are absolutely certain God exists and that the Bible is the word of God, compared with about seven-in-ten men who say this.

Christian men and women in the U.S. also differ in their private devotional habits. For example, roughly three-quarters (74%) of Christian women say they pray at least daily, compared with six-in-ten men (60%). The gender gap in prayer is especially wide for Catholics and mainline Protestants: 67% of Catholic women say they pray every day while just 49% of men say the same. And 62% of mainline Protestant women say they pray daily, compared with 44% of men. Among the U.S. Christian traditions analyzed in this study, Mormons are the only group in which there is no prayer gender gap, with similar shares of women and men saying they pray daily (86% and 84%, respectively).

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