Sep 5, 2018 12:03 pm

U.S. adults are more religious than Western Europeans

Crew members pray before a tractor pull contest in Maryland. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States has a religious makeup that’s broadly similar to that of many Western European countries. Most people on both sides of the Atlantic say they are Christian, for example. At the same time, substantial shares in the U.S. and Europe say they are religiously unaffiliated: Roughly a quarter of the American adult population identify as “nones” (23%), similar to the shares in Germany (24%), the United Kingdom (23%) and other Western European countries.

At that point, however, the similarities end: U.S. adults – both Christian and unaffiliated – are considerably more religious than their European counterparts by a variety of other measures, according to an analysis of data from Pew Research Center’s 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study in the U.S. and a 2017 survey of Western Europeans. For instance, about two-thirds of U.S. Christians pray daily (68%), compared with a median of just 18% of Christians across 15 surveyed countries in Europe, including 6% in Britain, 9% in Germany, 12% in Denmark and 38% in the Netherlands.

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Topics: Western Europe, Religious Affiliation, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Europe

Sep 5, 2018 7:00 am

Many Facebook users don’t understand how the site’s news feed works

Majority of older Facebook users do not understand why certain posts are included in their news feedA sizable majority of U.S. adults use Facebook and most of its users get news on the site. But a new Pew Research Center survey finds that notable shares of Facebook users ages 18 and older lack a clear understanding of how the site’s news feed operates, feel ordinary users have little control over what appears there, and have not actively tried to influence the content the feed delivers to them.

The findings from the survey – conducted May 29-June 11 – come amid a debate over the power of major online platforms, the algorithms that underpin those platforms and the nature of the content those algorithms surface to users. Facebook’s broad reach and impact mean that its news feed is one of the most prominent examples of a content algorithm in many Americans’ lives.

When asked whether they understand why certain posts but not others are included in their news feed, around half of U.S. adults who use Facebook (53%) say they do not – with 20% saying they do not understand the feed at all well. Older users are especially likely to say they do not understand the workings of the news feed: Just 38% of Facebook users ages 50 and older say they have a good understanding of why certain posts are included in it, compared with 59% of users ages 18 to 29.

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Topics: Social Media, Emerging Technology Impacts, Technology Adoption, Social Networking, News Sources

Sep 5, 2018 7:00 am

Americans are changing their relationship with Facebook

Significant shares of Facebook users have taken steps in the past year to reframe their relationship with the social media platform.

42% of Facebook users have taken a break from the site in the past yearJust over half of Facebook users ages 18 and older (54%) say they have adjusted their privacy settings in the past 12 months, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Around four-in-ten (42%) say they have taken a break from checking the platform for a period of several weeks or more, while around a quarter (26%) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their cellphone. All told, some 74% of Facebook users say they have taken at least one of these three actions in the past year.

The findings come from a survey of U.S. adults conducted May 29-June 11, following revelations that the former consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had collected data on tens of millions of Facebook users without their knowledge.

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Topics: Social Media, Emerging Technology Impacts, Technology Adoption, Social Networking

Sep 4, 2018 2:02 pm

Trust in the military exceeds trust in other institutions in Western Europe and U.S.

Western Europeans and Americans tend to trust their militaries much more than other national institutions.

Large majorities in eight Western European countries surveyed by Pew Research Center late last year said they trust the military, ranging from 84% in France to 66% in Spain. And on a similar survey question asked in the United States earlier this year, 80% of Americans said they have confidence that the military will act in the best interests of the public.

Other institutions received far lower marks on both sides of the Atlantic.

For example, across the eight European nations polled, a median of only 53% expressed confidence in banks and financial institutions. This trust varied by region: While about half or more in each of the five northern European countries surveyed said they trust banks, only 18% in Spain, 29% in Italy and 39% in France said the same.

While trust in news media, parliament and banks varies, most Western Europeans say they trust their militaryMajority of Americans say they have confidence in the militaryThe U.S. survey did not ask about banks and financial institutions, specifically. But it found that just 45% of American adults had confidence in business leaders to work in the best interests of the public.

In both Europe and the U.S., elected officials and the news media received even lower marks than banks and business leaders did.

About four-in-ten Europeans said they trust their parliament and the national news media (medians of 43% and 41%, respectively). Northern Europeans again expressed higher levels of confidence in these two institutions: Roughly half or more people in the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Denmark said they trust the news media and parliament. Notably, however, British adults reported far lower levels of trust than people in other northern European countries did: Only about a third of British adults said they trust the news media (32%) or the country’s parliament (36%). These levels of trust were more similar to those found in the southern European countries of France, Spain and Italy.

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Topics: Western Europe, Trust in Institutions, Military and Veterans, International Governments and Institutions, Europe

Aug 31, 2018 10:01 am

As debris piles up, Americans are skeptical enough will be done to limit space junk

A NASA-generated image of Earth depicts the many objects in geosynchronous orbit, about 22,000 miles above the surface. (NASA Orbital Debris Program Office)

Private companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are becoming increasingly important players in space exploration. Many Americans are confident these companies will be profitable, but they’re more skeptical they will keep space clean of debris, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Over the past 60 years, more than 5,250 space launches have spawned an orbital junkyard consisting of around 23,000 objects large enough to be detected, with a combined (Earth) weight of over 8,000 tons. While that’s a small amount compared with the more than 3.5 million tons of garbage the world produces every single day, it’s enough to pose a growing hazard to satellites and space stations.

There is at least one terrestrial clean-up strategy that could be applied to space junk: recycling. Among the estimated 4,500 satellites in orbit, only about 1,500 are still functional. But those roughly 3,000 dead satellites contain valuable components that could be repurposed for other uses. Some could be towed to Mars, to assist missions to the red planet, where they could be repaired. Other satellites with valuable building materials could be melted down by a solar-powered orbiting forge.

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Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Science and Innovation, Energy and Environment

Aug 30, 2018 3:01 pm

Where the public stands on key issues that could come before the Supreme Court

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, right, shakes hands with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, after their July 10 meeting at the U.S. Capitol. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to begin confirmation hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in July after three decades on the court.

In a Pew Research Center survey just after Kavanaugh’s nomination, Americans were divided: 41% said he should be confirmed, 36% said he should not and 23% offered no opinion. There was far more agreement over the importance of the selection itself: 83% of U.S. adults said the choice of the next Supreme Court justice is important to them personally, including 63% who said it is very important.

Ahead of the Senate’s deliberations over Kavanaugh, here’s a look at where the public stands on some of the major legal, political and social issues that could come before the justices in the years ahead, based on surveys conducted by Pew Research Center.

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Topics: Supreme Court, Abortion, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Death Penalty, Gun Policy, Federal Government, Business and Labor, Social Values

Aug 30, 2018 9:58 am

Most Americans view unions favorably, though few workers belong to one

Union members and construction workers hold a rally on May 22 in Columbus Circle in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Union members and construction workers hold a rally on May 22 in Columbus Circle in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Most Americans like labor unions, at least in the abstract. A majority (55%) holds a favorable view of unions, versus 33% who hold an unfavorable view, according to a Pew Research Center survey from earlier this year. For most of the past three decades that the Center has asked that question, in fact, Americans have viewed unions at least somewhat more favorably than unfavorably.

A long downward slide for U.S. unionsDespite those fairly benign views, unionization rates in the United States have dwindled in recent decades (even though, in the past few years, the absolute number of union members has grown slightly). As of 2017, just 10.7% of all wage and salary workers were union members, matching the record low set in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Back in 1983, when the BLS data series begins, about a fifth (20.1%) of wage and salary workers belonged to a union. (Unionization peaked in 1954 at 34.8% of all U.S. wage and salary workers, according to separate data from the Congressional Research Service.)

The long-term decline of organized labor has affected most parts of the U.S. economy, but not uniformly. In general, the biggest declines in unionization have come in those occupations and industries that were – and to a large extent still are – the foundations of the American labor movement, according to our analysis of BLS data going back to 2000.

Among the 22 broad occupational categories into which the BLS sorts U.S. wage and salary workers, the biggest decline in union membership from 2000 to 2017 was in transportation and material moving occupations, a broad grouping that includes everything from airline pilots and long-haul truckers to taxi drivers, train conductors and parking-lot attendants. In 2000, nearly 1.8 million of the 8.1 million workers in those occupations, or 21.7%, were union members. By last year, only 1.3 million transportation and material moving workers (14.8%) were unionized, even though total employment in the sector had grown to more than 8.8 million.  Read More

Topics: Business and Labor, Work and Employment

Aug 29, 2018 10:04 am

Q&A: The challenges of creating a religious typology

Pew Research Center surveys on religion in the United States typically sort Americans by their religious affiliation (or lack of affiliation). But our latest report looks at religion in America in a different way. This new analysis creates a typology that cuts across denominations, sorting Americans into seven groups, or “clusters,” based on their religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, the value they place on their religion, and the sources of meaning and fulfillment in their lives. Rich Morin, a senior editor at the Center, explains how the study was put together, and discusses the role of cluster analysis in creating the typology.

Why do a typology of religion in the first place?  

Rich Morin, Senior Editor, Pew Research Center
Rich Morin, Senior Editor,
Pew Research Center

When researchers study religion, they usually classify U.S. adults based on their religious denomination or group – the Catholic, Jewish, Baptist, Muslim and assorted other categories familiar to most Americans. Our goal was not to replace traditional religious categories but instead to create categories built around personal religious and spiritual beliefs, as well as behaviors and experiences that are broadly shared by people of different faiths. And, in addition to identifying characteristics that cut across denominational lines, we wanted this new religious typology to illuminate the key differences in belief and practice that exist within religious traditions.

What does this typology tell us about American religion that we didn’t already know?

We believe that this religious typology, based on people’s beliefs and practices rather than on their denomination, offers a new and important way to understand the American religious experience. It identifies both what unites certain people across the boundaries of different religious denominations and also what divides people of the same religious tradition. Beyond the distinctive characteristics of the seven groups, other striking findings include the low level of religious participation among many of those who consider themselves to be religious, widespread New Age beliefs (even among those who are religious in traditional ways), and the many and varied ways that people find meaning and personal fulfillment in their lives.

You grouped survey respondents using something called cluster analysis. What is cluster analysis and how does it work? Read More

Topics: Religion and Society, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Research Methods

Aug 29, 2018 10:04 am

From the Solidly Secular to Sunday Stalwarts, a look at our new religious typology

Most American adults identify with a religion, describing themselves as Protestants, Catholics or Jews, to name just a few examples. But a new Pew Research Center analysis looks at beliefs and behaviors that cut across many religious identities, producing a new and revealing classification, or typology, of religion in America. The new typology sorts U.S. adults into seven cohesive groups based on their answers to 16 questions about their religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, the value they place on religion, and the ways they find meaning and fulfillment in life.

For details on what the typology analysis entailed and why Pew Research Center undertook this new analysis, read a Q&A with Senior Editor Rich Morin, “The challenges of creating a religious typology.” 

Three of the seven groups are composed of highly religious Americans who are united by a traditional view of God and by the shared conviction that organized religion is generally a force for good in American life. Sunday Stalwarts are the most religious of the seven typology groups; they have a high level of involvement in religious congregations and actively practice their faith.

God-and-Country Believers are less active in church groups or other religious organizations, but, like Sunday Stalwarts, they hold many traditional religious beliefs and tilt right on social and political issues.

The Diversely Devout includes a relatively large share of racial and ethnic minorities. They are also diverse in their beliefs: It is the only group in which most people say they believe in God “as described in the Bible” and in which majorities say they believe in psychics, reincarnation and that spiritual energy can be located in physical things like mountains, trees and crystals.

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

Aug 28, 2018 12:31 pm

Americans have mixed views of Mexico, ‘warmer’ feelings toward Canada

As the Trump administration proposes changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Americans have sharply different feelings about the two countries that, along with the U.S., are part of that agreement.

Americans feel much 'colder' toward Mexico than CanadaViews of Mexico are mixed: While 39% say they feel “warmly” toward Mexico, 34% feel “coldly,” and 26% are neutral, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted July 30 to Aug. 12 among 4,581 adults.

The feelings are expressed on a 0-100 “feeling thermometer,” where a rating of 51 or higher is “warm,” a rating below 50 is “cold,” and a rating of 50 is neutral.

The public has much warmer feelings toward Canada. Two-thirds (67%) say they feel warmly toward Canada, with 52% giving it a very warm rating (76 or higher on the scale). Just 12% feel coldly toward Canada.

Republicans less likely than Democrats to feel warmly toward Mexico or very warmly toward CanadaThere are sizable partisan differences in opinions of both Mexico and Canada. More than half of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (55%) say they feel warmly toward Mexico, including about one-third (34%) who say they feel very warmly.

A majority of Republicans (53%) have cold feelings toward Mexico, including about a third (32%) who feel very coldly. Only 21% of Republicans report warm feelings toward Mexico, including just 9% who have very warm feelings.

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Topics: Mexico, Political Polarization, Globalization and Trade, Country Image, North America