Apr 8, 2016 12:02 pm

Pope’s proclamation, like views of U.S. Catholics, indicates openness to nontraditional families

Pope Francis today issued a 256-page proclamation exhorting Catholic clergy to be more welcoming to those involved in what the church considers nontraditional relationships, including people who have been divorced and remarried, gay couples and unmarried men and women living together in romantic relationships. While the document – titled “Amoris Laetitia” or “The Joy of Love” – is largely aspirational (it doesn’t change any church rules), its words and tone may be more in line with what many American Catholics already think, according to our surveys.

Indeed, a 2015 Pew Research Center survey of Catholic views on family life found that U.S. Catholics want the church to be welcoming to people living in a variety of nontraditional arrangements. For example, six-in-ten Catholics say they think the church should allow those who are divorced and have remarried without obtaining an annulment to receive Communion. And a similar share of Catholics think cohabiting couples should be permitted to receive the Eucharist. In addition, nearly half of American Catholics say the church should recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

The data also show that many Catholics believe that in the near future the church will make key changes in its handling of family matters. Indeed, about six-in-ten U.S. Catholics say they think the church will reverse its ban on birth control in the coming decades, while more than half say they think the church will soon allow cohabiting Catholics and those who have remarried without an annulment to receive Communion. Fewer Catholics think the church will recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples in the near future. Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Marriage and Divorce, Religion and Society, Religious Leaders

Apr 8, 2016 10:02 am

On abortion, persistent divides between – and within – the two parties

Interactive: Public views of abortion, 1995-2016As Americans await a decision in the Supreme Court’s first abortion case in years, a slim majority (56%) now think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. About four-in-ten (41%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

The balance of opinion on this issue has ticked back toward support for legalization. Last fall, after the battle in Congress over funding for Planned Parenthood, the share of Americans in favor of abortion being legal in all or most cases took a slight dip (51% legal, 43% illegal).

The latest Pew Research Center political survey finds deep disagreement between – and within – the parties over many major issues, including abortion. In fact, the partisan divide on abortion is far more polarized than it was two decades ago.

For an interactive look at attitudes on abortion, click here Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Abortion, Catholics and Catholicism, Evangelical Protestants and Evangelicalism, Political Attitudes and Values, Religion and U.S. Politics, U.S. Political Parties

Apr 7, 2016 1:59 pm

Cost-of-living disparities within states complicate minimum-wage debate

In the biggest victories to date for the national “Fight for $15” movement, California and New York have passed legislation raising their state minimum wage to $15 an hour (though both will phase in the increase over several years). Supporters of a higher minimum wage hope the California and New York wins will give them momentum in several other states where the issue is pending.

In some states, the cost of living varies widelyOne factor complicating the minimum-wage discussion is that the cost of living varies widely – not just from state to state but within individual states, something that’s especially true in large, diverse states such as California and New York. The real value of $15 (that is, its purchasing power) very much depends on where you live: A wage that might be barely adequate in a big city could be well above the norm in a rural small town.

To get a handle on those variations, we examined data on “regional price parities,” or RPPs. The RPPs, developed by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, measure local price levels in each of the nation’s 381 metropolitan statistical areas and the non-metropolitan portions of states, relative to the overall national price level. (The Philadelphia area’s RPP of 107.9, for instance, indicates that the overall cost of living there is 7.9% higher than the U.S. average.) In each state, we calculated how much the area with the highest RPP, and hence the highest cost of living, was above the lowest-RPP (i.e., lowest-price) area.

Read More

Topics: Economics and Personal Finances, Work and Employment

Apr 7, 2016 10:59 am

Is God Dead? No, but belief has declined slightly

Credit: Time
Credit: Time

Fifty years ago this month, Time magazine published one of its most famous and controversial covers. Splashed in bold red print across a black background was a short, simple and yet intensely provocative question: “Is God Dead?”

Without providing a definitive answer, the authors of the piece, dated April 8, 1966, seemed to imply that, in many parts of the world, the idea of an omnipotent creator could be heading for history’s dustbin. Even in the United States – where, the authors acknowledged, faith in God seemed nearly universal – many churches and seminaries were slowly dispensing with the traditional notion of the divine in favor of a God who was more symbolic than real.

But a half century after the Time article was first published, a recent Pew Research Center survey shows that belief in God is strong in the United States. Indeed, according to our 2014 Religious Landscape Study, nearly nine-in-ten American adults say they believe in God or a universal spirit.  Read More

Topics: Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Apr 7, 2016 7:00 am

Who relies on public transit in the U.S.

America’s love affair with the car is well-documented, but many U.S. adults also rely on a bus, train or subway to get around. One-in-ten Americans (11%) say they take public transportation on a daily or weekly basis, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted in late 2015, but who is taking public transit varies substantially by region, nativity, and race and ethnicity.

New York leads U.S. in public transit useThe Northeast, home to several of the most traveled transit systems in the country, has the largest share of adults by region (25%) who use public transportation on a regular basis (daily or weekly). City dwellers are also more frequent users of mass transit. Some 21% of urban residents use public transit on a regular basis, compared with 6% of suburban residents and just 3% of rural residents.

Recent headlines on public transit haven’t been flattering. Last week, Washington D.C., transit officials warned that repairs to its subway system – which is one of the most used in the nation – could close entire rail lines for up to six months. This statement came two weeks after the city’s metro rail service was suspended for 29 hours for emergency inspections.  Read More

Topics: Demographics, Work and Employment

Apr 6, 2016 11:09 am

Global tech companies see India’s vast offline population as untapped market

Room to grow: Internet access and smartphone ownership in IndiaOnly about a fifth of India’s roughly 1.2 billion people are online, according to a recent Pew Research Center report, and the world’s biggest technology companies are clamoring for this large, untapped user base. Facebook recently tried (and failed) to implement its “Free Basics” internet program, and Google is also vying for the vast Indian internet market.

India lags behind other emerging nations in internet access and smartphone ownership. Across the 21 emerging and developing nations surveyed in 2015 (including India), a median of 54% have internet access and 37% own smartphones. In India, however, only 22% have internet access and only 17% have a smartphone.  Read More

Topics: Asia and the Pacific, Digital Divide, Emerging Technology Impacts, Globalization and Trade, Internet Activities, Technology Adoption

Apr 6, 2016 9:30 am

The biggest U.S. tax breaks

FT_16.04.05_taxExpendituresWith just two weeks till this year’s April 18 tax filing deadline, many Americans are still sweating over their 1040s, Schedule A’s and self-employment tax worksheets. One reason they might put in a little extra time: the more than $1.3 trillion worth of tax breaks that are allowed under the Internal Revenue Code.

That’s the total estimated impact for fiscal year 2016 of the nearly 200 major “tax expenditures” – government lingo for tax breaks – that come in the form of exemptions, deductions, credits and other special provisions, according to an annual staff report from Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation. Even that $1.3 trillion figure is an understatement, as the report only gives specifics for a tax expenditure if it’s estimated to cost the government $50 million or more per year; dozens of breaks fall below that threshold. Read More

Topics: Economic Policy, Taxes

Apr 5, 2016 2:00 pm

Voters have a dim view of primaries as a good way to pick the best candidate

Trump supporters more likely than others to say primaries determine the best-qualified nomineesMore than halfway through the presidential primary season, most Americans are skeptical that the primary process has been a good way of determining the best-qualified nominee from each party. But there are differences between supporters of the various candidates on whether the primary process overall is a good way of picking the most qualified standard-bearer, with supporters of Donald Trump standing out in their positive assessment of the primaries so far.

Just 35% of voters say that the primaries have been a good way of determining the best-qualified nominees, a recent Pew Research Center survey on issues and the campaign has found. This is a smaller share than said so during the 2008 election but is on par with views of the primary process in 1992, 1996 and 2000.

Republican voters are more likely than Democratic voters to say the primary process has been a good way of determining the best-qualified nominees. But about half of Republicans (55%) and a clear majority of Democrats (68%) think the primaries so far have not been a good way of determining the best-qualified nominees. While there are partisan differences in these views, there are substantial divides within the parties, particularly the GOP – with Trump supporters expressing the most positive views of the primary process. Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Election News, Elections and Campaigns, U.S. Political Figures, U.S. Political Parties, Voter Participation, Voter Preferences, Voting Issues

Apr 5, 2016 7:00 am

Millennials give Obama a boost as his job rating rebounds

Generation gap in Obama job approval among the widest of his presidencyDuring much of Barack Obama’s presidency, Millennials have been some of his strongest supporters, rating his job performance much more positively than those in older generations. And today — with Obama’s overall approval rating at 51%, the highest in nearly three years – the generation gap in approval is among the widest since he took office in 2009.

About six-in-ten (62%) Millennials (adults born after 1980) approve of the job Obama is doing. By comparison, half of Generation Xers (born 1965-1980), 43% of Boomers (born 1946-1964) and just 37% of Silents (born 1928-1945) offer positive ratings of the president’s job performance. Read More

Topics: Barack Obama, Generations and Age, Presidential Approval, U.S. Political Figures

Apr 4, 2016 12:30 pm

Trump has benefited from evangelicals’ support, but he’s not the first choice of the most committed

White evangelical Republican voters who attend church weekly favor Cruz; half of less-frequent attenders favor Trump

Donald Trump is at the head of the Republican field due, in part, to the strength of support from many self-described “born-again or evangelical” Christians in the early primary and caucus states, according to the exit polls. His success with evangelicals has surprised many observers because of his background; he is a thrice-married man who once described himself as “pro-choice,” and appears not to share some of the beliefs embraced by one of the country’s most socially conservative religious groups.

But a new Pew Research Center poll shows that among evangelicals, Trump performs far worse with the roughly two-thirds who are most religiously committed. Whereas half of white evangelical Republican voters who attend religious services less than once a week say they’d like to see Trump get the GOP nomination, just 31% of churchgoing GOP evangelicals say the same.

White evangelical Republicans who attend church regularly are most heavily concentrated in the Ted Cruz camp. Indeed, roughly half (48%) of Cruz supporters are white evangelical Protestants, and most of them (35% of all Cruz supporters) say they are weekly churchgoers. Smaller shares of Trump (34%) and Kasich (26%) supporters are white evangelicals. Read More

Topics: 2016 Election, Religion and U.S. Politics, U.S. Political Figures