Jun 13, 2014 11:54 am

Why we didn’t include the y-axis on our polarization chart

One of the biggest findings in our largest-ever politics survey of Americans was that the public is more polarized than at any time in recent history. To illustrate, we included an interactive data visualization of the blue and red “mountains” of Americans, representing Democrats and Republicans and how their views have changed over time. This unique interactive does not include a labeled y (vertical) axis, as many are used to seeing in charts. This was an intentional decision to avoid miscommunication about the meaning of the area represented by the “mountains.”

In this case, the “mountains” represent the distribution of the American public, from consistently conservative to consistently liberal, according to how they answered a series of 10 questions about their political views. To create the distribution, we used their responses to assign them an ideological consistency score – this is the x (horizontal) axis. The interactive is actually a “smoothed” histogram of these scores, where points along the curve correspond to averages of adjacent scores. (Find a more detailed explanation here.)

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Topics: Political Polarization, Research Methodology

Jun 13, 2014 9:00 am

Chart of the Week: The World Cup of (almost) everything

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Soccer’s World Cup tournament, now getting underway, is front-page news around the world. But why should the sports world have all the fun? The infographics whizzes at The Wall Street Journal adapted the Cup’s group-and-bracket format to show which of the 32 countries in the tournament stand out on 70 dimensions, only a handful of them related to soccer.

On the interactive version of the chart, clicking on any of the topics in the left-hand rail automatically reorders the brackets and picks the “winner.” We learn, for example, that Russia leads the World Cup qualifiers in most cellphone subscriptions per capita (1.84), Argentina has the heaviest meat-eaters (570 calories per capita per day, beating out the French), and the Netherlands has the highest internet usage rate (93% of its population is online). It’s a simple and elegant, yet compulsively fascinating way of presenting a lot of data about the world.

(And not to ignore entirely the actual sport, Brazil has the best all-time record in World Cup competition, with 216 points scored. But Belgium has the tallest World Cup roster, averaging just over 6 feet.)

Category: Chart of the Week

Topics: International Organizations

Jun 13, 2014 7:00 am

How the most ideologically polarized Americans live different lives

polarization_whereliveFor America’s most ardent liberals and conservatives, polarization begins at home.

In what may seem like stereotypes come to life, a new Pew Research Center study on political polarization finds that conservatives would rather live in large houses in small towns and rural areas — ideally among people of the same religious faith — while liberals opt for smaller houses and walkable communities in cities, preferably with a mix of different races and ethnicities. And sizable minorities of both groups say they’d be dismayed if someone from the “other side” were to marry into their family. Read More

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Polarization

Jun 12, 2014 3:55 pm

More Americans say U.S. failed to achieve its goals in Iraq

As Sunni militants make a major military push against the central government in Iraq, the Obama administration is said to have rebuffed requests from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to carry out airstrikes at extremist bases. That reported reluctance follows years of U.S. military intervention in Iraq that many Americans say was misguided and failed to achieve its goals.

Iraq War in U.S. public opinionAbout half (52%) of Americans said the U.S. had mostly failed to achieve its goals in Iraq compared with 37% who said it had succeeded, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January. That amounted to a 19-point decline in perceived success since 2011. And, by about the same margin (50% to 38%), the public said the U.S. had made the wrong decision in using military force in Iraq.  Read More

Topics: Middle East and North Africa, Military and Veterans, Wars and International Conflicts

Jun 12, 2014 12:56 pm

5 facts about today’s fathers

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Credit: Getty Images

As the American family changes, fatherhood is changing in important and sometimes surprising ways. Recent Pew Research Center studies show that fathers who live with their children are taking a more active role in caring for them and helping out around the house. And the ranks of stay-at-home fathers and single fathers have grown significantly in recent decades. At the same time, more and more children are growing up without a father in the home.

The changing role of fathers has introduced new challenges, as dads juggle the competing demands of family and work. Here are some key findings about fathers from recent Pew Research Center reports.

1Fewer dads are their family’s sole breadwinner.

FT_dual-income-households-1960-2012Among married couples with children under age 18, dual income households are now the dominant arrangement (60%). In 1960, only one-in-four of these households had two incomes; 70% had a father who worked and a mother who was at home with the kids.

The public has mixed views about these changes. Most (62%) say that a marriage where the husband and wife both have jobs and both take care of the house and children is preferable to one where the husband works and the wife takes care of the home and family (30%). At the same time, a majority (74%) says having more women in the workplace makes it harder for parents to raise children. Read More

Topics: Family Roles, Household and Family Structure, Income, Marriage and Divorce, Parenthood, Work and Employment

Jun 12, 2014 10:00 am

The polarized Congress of today has its roots in the 1970s

You don’t have to look hard to see evidence of political polarization – just watch cable news, listen to talk radio or follow social-media debates. Indeed, a new Pew Research Center report finds that Americans are more ideologically polarized today than they’ve been in at least two decades. Their representatives in Congress are divided too, and have been pulling apart since the days of M*A*S*H and Billy Beer.

With Democrats and Republicans more ideologically separated than ever before, compromises have become scarcer and more difficult to achieve, contributing to the current Congress’ inability to get much of consequence done. But going beyond anecdotal evidence to examine congressional polarization more rigorously can be tricky.

Fortunately, political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal have developed a widely accepted metric, DW-NOMINATE, that places every senator and representative on the same set of ideological scales. Using their data, it’s clear that the congressional parties, after decades of relatively little polarization, began pulling apart in the mid-1970s. Today, they say, “Congress is now more polarized than at any time since the end of Reconstruction.” Read More

Topics: Congress, Political Attitudes and Values, U.S. Political Parties

Jun 12, 2014 7:00 am

7 things to know about polarization in America

Political polarization is the defining feature of early 21st century American politics, both among the public and elected officials. As part of a year-long study of polarization, the Pew Research Center has conducted the largest political survey in its history – a poll of more than 10,000 adults between January and March of this year. It finds that Republicans and Democrats are further apart ideologically than at any point in recent history. Growing numbers of Republicans and Democrats express highly negative views of the opposing party. And to a considerable degree, polarization is reflected in the personal lives and lifestyles of those on both the right and left.

Here are 7 key findings on polarization in America today:

U.S. Political Polarization

1The share of Americans who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades, from 10% to 21%. As a result, the amount of ideological overlap between the two parties has diminished. The “median,” or typical, Republican is now more conservative than 94% of Democrats, compared with 70% twenty years ago. And the median Democrat is more liberal than 92% of Republicans, up from 64%.  Among Republicans and Democrats who are highly engaged in politics, 70% now take positions that are mostly or consistently in line with the ideological bent of their party.  Read More

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Polarization, U.S. Political Parties

Jun 12, 2014 12:01 am

How Pew Research conducted the polarization survey and launched a new research panel

Scott Keeter, Director of Survey Research, Pew Research Center

Throughout its history, the Pew Research Center has periodically conducted major surveys that take an in-depth look at important trends in American political attitudes and behavior. Today we released one such survey on political polarization, which is arguably the defining feature of early 21st century American politics. This is reflected not only in the public’s views about issues ranging from immigration to guns, but also in their personal lives and lifestyles. The study is the center’s largest-yet effort — a survey of more than 10,000 adults, as well as a new component called the American Trends Panel. The survey was funded in part through grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and supported by Don C. and Jeane M. Bertsch.

Director of Survey Research Scott Keeter answered some questions about how the survey was done.

This survey includes more than 10,000 adults. Why did you decide to survey so many people for this report – isn’t a nationally representative sample usually around 1,000 people?

There are many reasons, but the most important is that having a larger number of people participating in the survey allows us to better describe the characteristics, attitudes and behaviors of smaller segments of the larger, nationwide public. For example, the larger sample allows us to interview a larger number of campaign donors, people with consistently conservative or liberal attitudes or regular primary voters. These individuals, even as smaller shares of the public, may have an outsize impact on the phenomenon of political polarization. Read More

Topics: Political Polarization, Research Methodology, U.S. Political Parties

Jun 11, 2014 3:44 pm

Can Twitter survive in a Facebook world? The key is being different

News organizations have been reporting in recent weeks that Twitter’s growth rate has been slowing, which has spurred speculation about its future.

The Pew Research Center has watched social networking in the U.S. grow faster and change more than most other internet activities, and that landscape continues to evolve quickly. Our studies have shown that Twitter occupies an important segment of the social networking world, but, in sheer numbers, its user base lags far behind the social networking behemoth Facebook.

Twitter user growth in AmericaWhen Pew Research first began tracking Twitter usage in November 2010, 8% of online adults used the platform. As of January 2014, 19% of online adults were using Twitter. The last time we asked about Facebook in September 2013, we found 71% of internet users using the social network.

But judging whether Twitter can survive in a Facebook-dominated world might not be the right predictor of its staying power in the market because of the niche it occupies. Put simply: Twitter is different; not only in who it attracts, but also in how it is used and how messages spread on the platform. Twitter also often acts more like a broadcasting network than a social network, connecting speakers and their content to the public.  Read More

Topics: Internet Activities, Social Media, Social Networking

Jun 11, 2014 2:00 pm

Tea Partiers are not all immigration hawks

FT_14.06.11_CantorImmigration (2)One of the storylines coming out of last night’s surprise loss by Republican Rep. Eric Cantor was that the immigration issue was a major point of weakness for the House majority leader. More specifically, Cantor’s relatively conservative stance on immigration reform was viewed as not conservative enough for the Tea Party base within his party.

Yet a Pew Research Center survey, conducted Jan. 23-Feb. 9, shows that most Americans favor a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, though there are partisan and ideological differences over the issue. Nationwide, 76% say people currently in the country illegally should be eligible for citizenship if they meet certain requirements, and just 23% disagree. Among Republicans, that majority slips to 66% vs. 32%. And narrowing further to Republicans who agree with the Tea Party still finds a 59% majority in favor of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and 39% opposed. Read More

Topics: Immigration Attitudes, Unauthorized Immigration