Aug 15, 2018 12:21 pm

14% of Americans have changed their mind about an issue because of something they saw on social media

(Getty Images)

For most Americans, exposure to different content and ideas on social media has not caused them to change their opinions. But a small share of the public – 14% – say they have changed their views about a political or social issue in the past year because of something they saw on social media, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted May 29-June 11.

Although it’s unclear what issues people changed their views about, within the past year a variety of social and political issues – from the #MeToo movement to #BlackLivesMatter and #MAGA – have been discussed on social media.

Roughly three-in-ten younger men changed their views on an issue because of social mediaCertain groups, particularly young men, are more likely than others to say they’ve modified their views because of social media. Around three-in-ten men ages 18 to 29 (29%) say their views on a political or social issue changed in the past year due to social media. This is roughly twice the share saying this among all Americans and more than double the shares among men and women ages 30 and older (12% and 11%, respectively).

There are also differences by race and ethnicity, according to the new survey. Around one-in-five black (19%) and Hispanic (22%) Americans say their views changed due to social media, compared with 11% of whites.

Social media prompted views to change more among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (17%) than among Republicans and Republican leaners (9%). Within these party groups, there are also some differences by gender, at least among Democrats. Men who are Democrats or lean Democratic (21%) are more likely than their female counterparts (14%) to say they’ve changed their minds. However, equal shares of Republican and Republican-leaning men and women say the same (9% each).

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Topics: Social Media, Internet Activities, Social Values, Political Attitudes and Values

Aug 10, 2018 10:30 am

11 states that have the death penalty haven’t used it in more than a decade

Tennessee carried out its first execution since 2009 this month and Nebraska soon may carry out its first since 1997. The two states underscore the fact that while a majority of jurisdictions in the United States have capital punishment on the books, a considerably smaller number of them use it regularly.

Most states have the death penalty, but significantly fewer use it regularlyOverall, 31 states, the federal government and the U.S. military authorize the death penalty, while 19 states and the District of Columbia do not, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, an information clearinghouse that has been critical of capital punishment. But 11 of the states that allow executions – along with the federal government and the U.S. military – haven’t had one in at least a decade.

Nebraska, in fact, is among seven states that have the death penalty but haven’t carried out an execution in at least 15 years. New Hampshire hasn’t executed an inmate since 1939; the other states in this category are Kansas (last execution in 1965), Wyoming (1992), Colorado and Oregon (both 1997), and Pennsylvania (1999). Executions have occurred somewhat more recently – though still more than a decade ago – in California, Montana, Nevada and North Carolina (all in 2006).

The last federal execution also took place more than 15 years ago, in March 2003. While the U.S. military retains its own authority to carry out executions, it hasn’t done so since 1961.

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Topics: Death Penalty, Criminal Justice, Social Values

Aug 9, 2018 12:00 pm

Middle children have become rarer, but a growing share of Americans now say three or more kids are ‘ideal’

(Images Of Our Lives/Getty Images)

Ahead of National Middle Child Day, some have recently pondered whether middle children are “going extinct.” Yet new data on the number of children Americans see as “ideal” suggest that middle-child families could become more popular again: Roughly four-in-ten U.S. adults (41%) think families of three or more children are ideal, a share rivaling that of around two decades ago, according to a recent Gallup survey.

Share of Americans who say having three or more kids is 'ideal' has increased in recent years – but most moms still have one or twoThe current share of adults who see three or more children as the ideal family size is the highest since 1997, when, amid a thriving economy, 42% said this. However, it is still far below the share in 1967 and earlier, when a clear majority of Americans said three or more is the ideal number.

Americans’ preference for families with three or more children began to decline after the Baby Boom era and through the 1970s and ’80s. It reached a low of 28% in 1986, after a period of multiple recessions.

When it comes to the number of children that U.S. women are actually having in their lifetime, it’s still much more common for women at the end of their childbearing years to have had one or two kids than three or more, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

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Topics: Birth Rate and Fertility, Demographics, Family and Relationships, Parenthood, Household and Family Structure

Aug 9, 2018 7:01 am

Record number of forcibly displaced people lived in sub-Saharan Africa in 2017

Congolese refugees leave a boat in Sebagoro, Uganda, on May 2 after fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In sub-Saharan Africa, number of forcibly displaced people increased sharply in 2017The total number of people living in sub-Saharan Africa who were forced to leave their homes due to conflict reached a new high of 18.4 million in 2017, up sharply from 14.1 million in 2016 – the largest regional increase of forcibly displaced people in the world, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees data.

The world’s displaced population has increased dramatically since 2012, reaching its highest levels since World War II. The Middle East drove much of the increase between 2012 and 2015 due to conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, but in 2017, the vast majority of growth has come from displaced populations living in sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2015, the region’s displaced population has jumped by 42%, with most of this increase taking place in 2017 alone. By comparison, the number of displaced people living in the Middle East-North Africa region fell 8% between 2015 and 2017, though it remains the world’s largest total overall.

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Topics: Global Migration and Demography, Migration, Sub-Saharan Africa, Wars and International Conflicts

Aug 8, 2018 10:06 am

Why America’s ‘nones’ don’t identify with a religion

A growing share of Americans are religiously unaffiliated. We recently asked a representative sample of more than 1,300 of these “nones” why they choose not to identify with a religion. Out of several options included in the survey, the most common reason they give is that they question a lot of religious teachings.

Six-in-ten religiously unaffiliated Americans – adults who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – say the questioning of religious teachings is a very important reason for their lack of affiliation. The second-most-common reason is opposition to the positions taken by churches on social and political issues, cited by 49% of respondents (the survey asked about each of the six options separately). Smaller, but still substantial, shares say they dislike religious organizations (41%), don’t believe in God (37%), consider religion irrelevant to them (36%) or dislike religious leaders (34%).

Most religious 'nones' say questioning religious teachings is an important reason they are unaffiliatedThose who identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” tend to give different reasons for their lack of affiliation, showing that “nones” are far from a monolithic group. For example, about nine-in-ten self-described atheists (89%) say their lack of belief in God is a very important reason for their religious identity, compared with 37% of agnostics and 21% of those in the “nothing in particular” category. Atheists also are more likely than other “nones” to say religion is simply “irrelevant” to them (63% of atheists vs. 40% of agnostics and 26% of adults with no particular religion).

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Topics: Religiously Unaffiliated, Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Aug 7, 2018 12:00 pm

For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades

On the face of it, these should be heady times for American workers. U.S. unemployment is as low as it’s been in nearly two decades (3.9% as of July) and the nation’s private-sector employers have been adding jobs for 101 straight months – 19.5 million since the Great Recession-related cuts finally abated in early 2010, and 1.5 million just since the beginning of the year.

But despite the strong labor market, wage growth has lagged economists’ expectations. In fact, despite some ups and downs over the past several decades, today’s real average wage (that is, the wage after accounting for inflation) has about the same purchasing power it did 40 years ago. And what wage gains there have been have mostly flowed to the highest-paid tier of workers.

Americans' paychecks are bigger than 40 years ago, but their purchasing power has hardly budgedThe disconnect between the job market and workers’ paychecks has fueled much of the recent activism in states and cities around raising minimum wages, and it also has become a factor in at least some of this year’s congressional campaigns.

Average hourly earnings for non-management private-sector workers in July were $22.65, up 3 cents from June and 2.7% above the average wage from a year earlier, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s in line with average wage growth over the past five years: Year-over-year growth has mostly ranged between 2% and 3% since the beginning of 2013. But in the years just before the 2007-08 financial collapse, average hourly earnings often increased by around 4% year-over-year. And during the high-inflation years of the 1970s and early 1980s, average wages commonly jumped 7%, 8% or even 9% year-over-year.

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Topics: Income Inequality, Work and Employment, Economics and Personal Finances, Income, National Economy

Aug 6, 2018 3:00 pm

Most European students are learning a foreign language in school while Americans lag

Students throughout the United States and Europe face many similar tasks throughout their education, from preparing for exams to writing papers. But there are glaring differences when it comes to foreign language education – or lack thereof – and the result is that far lower shares of American students study a foreign language.

Europe drastically outpaces U.S. in foreign language learning

Learning a foreign language is a nearly ubiquitous experience for students throughout Europe, driven in part by the fact that most European countries have national-level mandates for formally studying languages in school. No such national standard exists in the U.S., where requirements are mostly set at the school district or state level.

Across Europe, students typically begin studying their first foreign language as a required school subject between the ages of 6 and 9. Furthermore, studying a second foreign language for at least one year is compulsory in more than 20 European countries.

Overall, a median of 92% of European students are learning a language in school. Most primary and secondary school students across Europe study at least one foreign language as part of their education, according to Eurostat, the statistics arm of the European Commission. Of the 29 European nations for which data are available, 24 have a foreign language learning rate of at least 80%, with 15 of those reaching 90% or more of students enrolled in language courses. In three of the four countries with the smallest student populations – Luxembourg, Malta and Liechtenstein – 100% of students are reported to be learning a foreign language.

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Topics: Education, Language

Aug 6, 2018 10:02 am

What are nonprobability surveys?

To accurately measure public opinion, pollsters need samples that are representative of a larger population. Researchers often do this by drawing random samples from lists of all telephone numbers or mailing addresses, but it’s much more challenging when they want to conduct surveys online. That’s because there’s no master list of all email addresses for the entire population.

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Topics: Web Survey Methods, Research Methods

Aug 3, 2018 9:01 am

When writing about survey data, 51% might not mean a ‘majority’

Mark Twain once said that “the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – ’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.” That advice is especially apt when writing about survey data.

For many people, “majority” is a word so common that they rarely have to think twice about what it means. But it’s a different matter for polling organizations like Pew Research Center. By their nature, polls provide an estimate of what a large group of people say, since they’re based on a sample rather than the entire population. This basic reality can create challenges for writers who want to summarize poll findings in a precise way.

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Topics: Polling, Research Methods

Aug 2, 2018 1:30 pm

5 facts about the death penalty

The Vatican announced in August that Pope Francis has changed the Catholic Church’s teaching to fully oppose the death penalty. The announcement comes after a Pew Research Center survey showed an uptick in the share of Americans who favor capital punishment for those convicted of murder. Over the long term, however, public support for the death penalty has declined significantly, as has the number of executions in the United States.

As the debate over the death penalty continues in the U.S. and worldwide, here are five facts about the issue:

1The annual number of U.S. executions peaked at 98 in 1999 and has fallen sharply in the years since. In 2017, 23 inmates were executed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. That’s slightly higher than the year before, when 20 people were executed, but still well below the number of inmates annually put to death in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Just eight states – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Texas and Virginia – accounted for all executions in 2017, compared with 20 states in 1999.

Annual number of U.S. executions in 2017 is far below 1999 peak

2In 2017, for the second year in a row, the U.S. was not among the world’s top five countries in executionsaccording to Amnesty International, a human rights organization that opposes the practice. The U.S. ranked eighth internationally, behind China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt and Somalia. Overall, there were at least 993 executions in 23 nations in 2017, down slightly from 1,032 in 2016. The international total includes only cases Amnesty was able to confirm – the report notes that some countries intentionally conceal death penalty proceedings. In the case of China, for example, the state may well carry out more executions than all other countries combined. Indeed, Cornell University Law School estimates that the Chinese government executed about 2,400 people in 2015, and has carried out thousands of additional executions in the years since.

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Death Penalty, Criminal Justice, Social Values, Religion and U.S. Politics