Jun 7, 2018 7:00 am

Space tourism? Majority of Americans say they wouldn’t be interested

SpaceX's Dragon V2 spacecraft at its May 2014 unveiling in Hawthorne, California. (NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)
SpaceX’s Dragon V2 spacecraft at its May 2014 unveiling in Hawthorne, California. (NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

It’s summertime, which means Americans are embarking on vacation trips to destinations near and far. One getaway in the “far” category would be a trip to space, something a host of private companies are trying to make possible. But it’s not an excursion that appeals to everyone – more U.S. adults say they would not want to orbit the Earth than say they would, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

About four-in-ten Americans (42%) say they would definitely or probably be interested in orbiting the Earth in a spacecraft in the future, while roughly six-in-ten (58%) say they would not be interested.

Once regarded as a topic best suited for science fiction, space tourism is currently under development by private companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

Interest in being a space tourist is higher among younger generations and men. A majority (63%) of Millennials (born 1981 to 1996) say they would definitely or probably be interested in space tourism. Only minorities of Gen Xers (born 1965 to 1980) (39%) and those in the Baby Boomer or older generations (27%) would be interested.

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Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Science and Innovation

Jun 5, 2018 10:00 am

Almost seven-in-ten Americans have news fatigue, more among Republicans

If you feel like there is too much news and you can’t keep up, you are not alone. A sizable portion of Americans are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of news there is, though the sentiment is more common on the right side of the political spectrum, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted from Feb. 22 to March 4, 2018.

Almost seven-in-ten Americans (68%) feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days, compared with only three-in-ten who say they like the amount of news they get. The portion expressing feelings of information overload is in line with how Americans felt during the 2016 presidential election, when a majority expressed feelings of exhaustion from election coverage.

While majorities of both Republicans and Democrats express news fatigue, Republicans are feeling it more. Roughly three-quarters (77%) of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents feel worn out over how much news there is, compared with about six-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (61%). This elevated fatigue among Republicans tracks with them having less enthusiasm than Democrats for the 2018 elections.  Read More

Topics: News Audience Trends and Attitudes, News Interest

Jun 5, 2018 5:59 am

More Americans view long-term decline in union membership negatively than positively

Union members hold a rally at Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago on Feb. 26. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Union members hold a rally at Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago on Feb. 26. Labor union membership in the U.S. has declined since the 1950s. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The number of Americans represented by labor unions has decreased substantially since the 1950s, and a new Pew Research Center survey finds that the decline is seen more negatively than positively by U.S. adults. The survey also finds that 55% of Americans have a favorable impression of unions, with about as many (53%) viewing business corporations favorably.

In 2017, just 10.7% of wage and salaried workers in the United States were members of labor unions, down from 20.1% in 1983 (the first year for which comparable data are available), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unionization in the U.S. peaked at more than 34% in 1954, according to the Congressional Research Service.

About half of Americans (51%) say the large reduction in union representation has been mostly bad for working people in the U.S., while 35% say it has been mostly good, according to the Center’s survey, which was conducted in April and May. Views about the impact of diminished union membership are little changed from 2015.  Read More

Topics: Work and Employment, National Economy

Jun 4, 2018 12:01 pm

How Americans have viewed government surveillance and privacy since Snowden leaks

When National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden released classified documents detailing U.S. government interception of phone calls and electronic communications, it made headlines around the world. Here, two men in Hong Kong read a newspaper in June 2013. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)
When Edward Snowden released classified documents in June 2013 detailing U.S. government interception of phone calls and electronic communications, it made headlines around the world. Here, two men in Hong Kong read a newspaper. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)

Five years ago this month, news organizations broke stories about federal government surveillance of phone calls and electronic communications of U.S. and foreign citizens, based on classified documents leaked by then-National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The initial stories and subsequent coverage sparked a global debate about surveillance practices, data privacy and leaks.

Here are some key findings about Americans’ views of government information-gathering and surveillance, drawn from Pew Research Center surveys since the NSA revelations:

1Americans were divided about the impact of the leaks immediately following Snowden’s disclosures, but a majority said the government should prosecute the leaker. About half of Americans (49%) said the release of the classified information served the public interest, while 44% said it harmed the public interest, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted days after the revelations. While adults younger than 30 were more likely than older Americans to say the leaks served the public interest (60%), there was no partisan divide in these views.

At the same time, 54% of the public said the government should pursue a criminal case against the person responsible for the leaks, a view more commonly held among Republicans and Democrats (59% each) than independents (48%). Snowden was charged with espionage in June 2013. He then fled the U.S. and continues to live in Russia under temporary asylum.  Read More

Topics: Federal Government, Online Privacy and Safety, National Security

Jun 1, 2018 2:00 pm

Q&A: Measuring attitudes toward Muslims and Jews in Western Europe

The religious landscape of Western Europe is changing. The Christian population is declining, while the share of religiously unaffiliated adults is increasing. The Muslim population is growing as a result of immigration and higher fertility rates. Meanwhile, the Jewish population appears to be on the decline due to emigration to Israel and other factors.

Neha Sahgal, associate director of research, Pew Research Center
Neha Sahgal, associate director of research, Pew Research Center

Against this backdrop, Pew Research Center asked people in 15 Western European countries a number of questions related to multiculturalism and pluralism, with a specific emphasis on their attitudes toward Muslims and Jews. These questions were part of a broader study on religion and identity in the region.

In this Q&A, Neha Sahgal, one of the lead authors of the study, discusses how the survey team constructed its questions and analyzed the results.

Is this survey intended to measure the extent of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in Western Europe today?

The survey questions weren’t designed to measure anti-Semitism or Islamophobia in a comprehensive way, but rather to capture some expressed negative sentiment about these groups.  We asked respondents about their willingness to accept Muslims and Jews as neighbors and relatives. We also asked questions about whether people think Islam is compatible with their country’s values and culture, and if they favor restrictions on Muslim women’s religious clothing. Another set of questions asked people if they agree or disagree with a number of strongly worded statements about Jews and Muslims.  Read More

Topics: Western Europe, Christians and Christianity, Muslims and Islam, Jews and Judaism, Research Methods

May 31, 2018 2:30 pm

Under Pope Francis, the College of Cardinals has become less European

Pope Francis, flanked by cardinals, arrives in a procession at St. Peter's Square in late March, in Vatican City. (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Francis, flanked by cardinals, arrives in a procession at St. Peter’s Square in late March, in Vatican City. (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Unless his reign is short, a Roman Catholic pontiff will appoint most of the men who vote for his successor. But Pope Francis’ additions to the College of Cardinals since his election in 2013 also have served another purpose – tilting the leadership structure of the Roman Catholic Church away from its historic European base and toward the “global south” – that is, developing nations mostly in the Southern Hemisphere.

The pope recently announced that he will appoint 11 new voting cardinals. After this latest group is elevated at a June 29 ceremony in Vatican City, the College of Cardinals will have 125 voting members, 42% of whom are European, down from 52% in 2013.  Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Religious Leaders, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Europe

May 31, 2018 7:00 am

U.S. population keeps growing, but House of Representatives is same size as in Taft era

The U.S. House of Representatives has one voting member for every 747,000 or so Americans. That’s by far the highest population-to-representative ratio among a peer group of industrialized democracies, and the highest it’s been in U.S. history. And with the size of the House capped by law and the country’s population continually growing, the representation ratio likely will only get bigger.

In the century-plus since the number of House seats first reached its current total of 435 (excluding nonvoting delegates), the representation ratio has more than tripled – from one representative for every 209,447 people in 1910 to one for every 747,184 as of last year.

That ratio, mind you, is for the nation as a whole. The ratios for individual states vary considerably, mainly because of the House’s fixed size and the Constitution’s requirement that each state, no matter its population, have at least one representative. Currently, Montana’s 1,050,493 people have just one House member; Rhode Island has slightly more people (1,059,639), but that’s enough to give it two representatives – one for every 529,820 Rhode Islanders.

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Topics: Congress, Population Trends

May 30, 2018 12:00 pm

The populist parties that shook up Italy’s election

Five Star Movement's Luigi Di Maio, left, and the League's Matteo Salvini. (Left: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images. Right: Massimo Di Vita/Archivio Massimo Di Vita/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Five Star Movement’s Luigi Di Maio, left, and the League’s Matteo Salvini. (Left: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images. Right: Massimo Di Vita/Archivio Massimo Di Vita/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

The two populist parties that won the most votes in Italy’s March election – the Five Star Movement (Five Star) and the League (formerly known as the Northern League) – drew on different constituencies. While they had ironed out policy differences enough to make a coalition government feasible, concerns over their choice of a Euroskeptic finance minister have left things up in the air and may lead to new elections.

Here are some key facts about how the two parties’ supporters stand out from the rest of the Italian public, based on a Pew Research Center survey conducted between October and December of last year.

1There is little overlap in public support for the Five Star Movement and the League. Only 13% of Italian adults had a favorable opinion of both the League and Five Star. In contrast, 46% of Italians did not have a favorable view of either party. The two parties also draw their base of support from different groups of people. For example, people who say they feel closest to the League tend to be less educated than Five Star supporters, and they are more likely to be female. Five Star support is also most prevalent in the south of the country, while the League is strongest in the north.

2Supporters of the two parties differ substantially in their views of immigrants and the benefits that they do – or do not – bring to Italian society. About three-quarters of Italians who identify with the League – which campaigned on a far-right platform focused on reducing immigration – say immigrants are a burden on the Italian economy because they take Italians’ jobs. About seven-in-ten League supporters also say immigrants increase the risk of terrorist attacks in Italy, including 59% who say they strongly believe immigrants increase the risk of such attacks.  Read More

Topics: Western Europe, Non-U.S. Political Leaders, World Elections, Political Attitudes and Values

May 30, 2018 10:00 am

As fatal overdoses rise, many Americans see drug addiction as a major problem in their community

Americans overwhelmingly see drug addiction as a problem in their local community, regardless of whether they live in an urban, suburban or rural area, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The public’s concerns come amid steep increases in the number and rate of fatal drug overdoses across all three community types in recent years.

Nine-in-ten Americans who live in a rural area say drug addiction is either a major or minor problem in their community, as do 87% in urban and 86% in suburban areas, according to the survey of 6,251 adults, conducted Feb. 26-March 11. Substantial shares in each community type say addiction is a major problem, though people in urban and rural areas are more likely to say this than those in a suburban setting (50% and 46%, respectively, compared with 35%).

The problem of drug addiction has drawn widespread attention as the United States confronts an opioid epidemic. President Donald Trump last year declared the epidemic a national public health emergency, and statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscore the deadly toll that opioids and other drugs have taken.

Nationally, more than 63,600 people died of a drug overdose in 2016, the most recent year for which full data are available. (Preliminary data suggest the 2017 number will be even higher.) That’s an increase of 21% from the prior year and nearly double the 34,425 drug overdose deaths that occurred a decade earlier. Opioids – ranging from illegal street drugs like heroin to prescription painkillers – have played an especially lethal role: About two-thirds (66%) of the fatal overdoses in 2016 involved an opioid.

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Topics: Population Geography, Social Values, Drugs, Demographics

May 29, 2018 2:01 pm

Irish vote highlights widespread popular support for legal abortion in Western Europe

A Dublin street filled with signs for both sides ahead of Ireland's May 25 referendum on abortion. The country overwhelmingly voted to overturn the constitutional amendment banning most abortions. (Artur Widak/AFP/Getty Images)
A Dublin street filled with signs for both sides ahead of Ireland’s May 25 referendum on abortion. The country overwhelmingly voted to overturn the constitutional amendment banning most abortions. (Artur Widak/AFP/Getty Images)

Irish voters recently approved a measure that modifies the country’s constitution and opens the door to legal abortion in a broader array of circumstances – perhaps more in line with the rest of Western Europe. The vote (with 66% approving the referendum) underscores the findings in a new Pew Research Center report, which shows that people in Ireland – like those in 14 other Western European countries – believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

As with the recent vote, 66% of Irish adults surveyed said abortion should be legal in all (14%) or most (52%) cases, compared with 30% who said it should be mostly or entirely illegal, according to the Center’s report, which is based on an international survey conducted in the summer of 2017. While this is a somewhat lower level of support for legal abortion than most other countries in Western Europe, it still reflects a regional consensus: Majorities in all 15 countries surveyed share this view, ranging from 60% in Portugal to 94% in Sweden. The regional median of 81% is much higher than the level of support for legal abortion among U.S. adults (57%).

The referendum in Ireland repealed the Eighth Amendment of the country’s constitution, which recognized the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn. The amendment effectively rendered abortion illegal in any circumstances except to save the life of the mother – one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Western Europe.

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Topics: Western Europe, Abortion, Social Values, Europe