The degree to which climate change threatens the ecosystems of the Earth and societies around the world has been an ongoing subject of debate – and sometimes protest. As Earth Day nears, we take stock of U.S. public opinion about climate change, based on recent Pew Research Center surveys.
1Compared with a decade ago, more Americans today say protecting the environment and dealing with global climate change should be top priorities for the president and Congress. A majority of U.S. adults (56%) say protecting the environment should be a top priority for the president and Congress, while a smaller share (44%) says the same about dealing with global climate change, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey.
Americans have a long to-do list for the president and Congress. Protecting the environment has been near the middle of the public’s priorities in Center surveys over the past decade, while dealing with climate change has been lower on the list. But the shares of Americans who consider each to be a top priority have grown considerably since 2011. The increase has been especially pronounced among Democrats.
1Majorities in most surveyed countries say global climate change is a major threat to their nation. In fact, it’s seen as the top threat in 13 of 26 surveyed countries, more than any other issue the survey asked about.
People in Greece express very high levels of concern, with 90% labeling climate change a major threat (similar to the 88% there who cite the condition of the global economy). People in South Korea, France, Spain and Mexico also express strong concerns. Eight-in-ten or more in each of these countries say climate change is a major threat.
Americans are less likely to be concerned about climate change, with 59% seeing it as a serious threat. About as many people in the United States cite climate change as point to ISIS (62%) and North Korea’s nuclear program (58%). Americans most frequently cite cyberattacks as a major threat.
People in Russia (43%), Nigeria (41%) and Israel (38%) are the least likely to say climate change is a major threat to their nation.
Americans in urban communities are more likely to say local news media mostly cover the area where they live, while rural residents say that their local news media mostly cover another area, such as a nearby city, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
Roughly six-in-ten self-described urban residents (62%) say their local news media mainly cover the area they live in, while a majority of those who describe themselves as rural residents (57%) say the opposite is true – their local news media mostly cover some other area, a concern raised by many journalism watchers following newsroom cutbacks and media consolidation. Self-described suburbanites are more evenly split, according to the survey conducted Oct. 15-Nov. 8, 2018, among nearly 35,000 U.S. adults.
Urban residents are also more likely than those in rural and suburban areas to feel that their local news media have a lot of influence on their communities: 44% of urban residents say so, compared with 30% of those in rural areas and 38% in suburban areas.
Demographers, sociologists, economists and other researchers gather in Austin, Texas, this week for the annual meeting of the Population Association of America. As the meeting convenes, here are six notable demographic trends highlighted in Pew Research Center analyses over the past year:
1Millennials are the largest adult generation in the United States, but they are starting to share the spotlight with Generation Z. This year, Millennials, those ages 23 to 38, will outnumber Baby Boomers (ages 55 to 73), according to Census Bureau projections. Now in their young adulthood, Millennials are more educated, more racially and ethnically diverse and slower to marry than previous generations were at the same age. But after growing up in the Great Recession, their economic picture is mixed: Young adult households are earning more than most older Americans did at the same age, but have less wealth than Boomers did at the same age, partly because they are more likely to have higher amounts of student loan debt.
Although the nation’s 73 million Millennials are the largest living adult generation, the next one – Generation Z – is entering adulthood. Also known as the post-Millennials, Gen Zers (those ages 7 to 22 this year) are on track to be the best educated and most diverse generation yet. Nearly half of Gen Zers (48%) are racial or ethnic minorities. Socially and politically, their liberal-leaning opinions on key issues are similar to those of Millennials.
2Hispanics are projected to be the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the U.S. electorate when voters cast their ballots next year. The number of eligible voters who are Hispanic (32 million) is projected to surpass that of black eligible voters (30 million) for the first time, according to Pew Research Center projections based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. However, voter turnout will play an important role in the influence of different racial and ethnic groups. In past elections, black voter turnout substantially surpassed Hispanic voter turnout. The projections indicate that whites will account for two-thirds of the electorate, a declining share.
As the nation’s demographics are changing, so are those of Congress, though not as rapidly, according to a February 2019 Pew Research Center analysis. Nonwhites have risen to 22% of Congress, and women are a record 24% of voting lawmakers (a share that matches the average in legislatures worldwide). The share of immigrants in Congress has ticked up, but at 3% remains short of historical highs and far below the foreign-born share of the total U.S. population (13.6% as of 2017). An influx of younger representatives is having a small impact on the median age of the House of Representatives, according to a November 2018 analysis.
Gender differences about the size and scope of government have been evident for more than a decade, but they have widened in recent years.
And while the gender gap in presidential job approval also is not new, it is wider for Donald Trump than for his predecessors.
In a new Pew Research Center survey, nearly six-in-ten women (58%) say they prefer a bigger government providing more services to a smaller government providing fewer services (36%). Among men, the balance of opinion is nearly the reverse: 59% of men prefer a smaller government (37% prefer bigger).
Border Patrol agents apprehended 92,607 migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in March, the highest monthly total since April 2007. In response to the influx of migrants, U.S. President Donald Trump recently threatened to shut down the border and cut off aid to three Central American nations where many U.S.-bound migrants originate: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. (Trump has since delayed his proposal to shut down the border.)
As the debate over border security continues, here’s a look at how the recent flow of migrants compares with past migration patterns at the southwest border. All data are from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency tasked with patrolling the border.
1Apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border have risen sharply in the first half of the current fiscal year but remain below historical highs. There were 361,087 apprehensions in the first six months of the 2019 fiscal year (October 2018-March 2019) – more than double the number from the same period the previous year and the highest total through the first half of any fiscal year since 2007. Still, this year’s total remains far below the 856,228 apprehensions recorded in the first half of 2000, the peak year. And while the full year total for fiscal 2019 remains to be seen, apprehensions regularly exceeded 1 million per fiscal year during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
The share of U.S. adults who say they use certain online platforms or apps is statistically unchanged from where it stood in early 2018 despite a long stretch of controversies over privacy, fake news and censorship on social media, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 8 to Feb. 7, 2019.
More broadly, the steady growth in adoption that social platforms have experienced in the United States over the past decade also appears to be slowing. The shares of adults who say they use Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter are each largely the same as in 2016, with only Instagram showing an uptick in use during this time period. (There are no comparable 2016 phone survey data for YouTube, Snapchat, WhatsApp or Reddit.)
Facebook – which recently celebrated its 15th anniversary – remains one of the most widely used social media sites among adults in the U.S. Roughly seven-in-ten adults (69%) say they ever use the platform. (A separate 2018 Center survey showed Facebook use among U.S. teens had dropped in recent years.) YouTube is the only other online platform measured that matches Facebook’s reach: 73% of adults report using the video sharing site. But certain online platforms, most notably Instagram and Snapchat, have an especially strong following among young adults.
A majority of Americans say race relations are generally bad, and many think the country hasn’t made enough progress toward racial equality. A new Pew Research Center report finds deep divides between white and black adults – and between Republicans and Democrats – in views about race relations and racial inequality in the United States. Blacks are particularly gloomy: About seven-in-ten say race relations are bad, and half say it is unlikely that black people will eventually have equal rights with whites.
Here are other key findings from the survey, which was conducted in English and Spanish among 6,637 adults, Jan. 22-Feb. 5, 2019.
1A plurality of Americans (45%) say the country hasn’t gone far enough in giving black people equal rights with whites, while 39% say it’s been about right and 15% say we’ve gone too far. Black adults are by far the most likely to say the country hasn’t gone far enough – 78% say this, compared with 37% of whites and 48% of Hispanics. Among whites, there is a vast party divide on this issue. While 64% of white Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the country hasn’t gone far enough in giving blacks equal rights with whites, only 15% of Republicans and Republican leaners say the same. About a third of white Republicans (31%) say the country has gone too far, compared with 5% of white Democrats.
Around this time each year, hundreds of thousands of hopeful would-be college students find out which of the (sometimes many) schools they’ve applied to have accepted them. The ultralow admission rates at many “elite” colleges are getting more attention than usual this year in the wake of a college admissions scandal that has ensnared dozens of well-to-do parents, accused of using bribes to get their children into desirable schools.
But for all the attention paid to those brand-name institutions, the full picture of college admissions is quite different: The great majority of schools, where most Americans get their postsecondary education, admit most of the people who apply to them, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Education Department data.
Of the 1,364 four-year colleges and universities we looked at, 17 admitted fewer than 10% of applicants in 2017, the most recent year for which comprehensive data are available. That group includes such prestigious names as Stanford (4.7%), Harvard (5.2%), Yale (6.9%) and Northwestern (9.2%). Another 29 schools admitted between 10% and 20% of applicants, including Georgetown (15.7%), the University of Southern California (16%), UCLA (16.1%) and the University of California, Berkeley (17.1%). All those schools, along with three others with higher admission rates, have been caught up in the admissions scandal – either because coaches and other athletic personnel were indicted on charges of taking bribes to designate unqualified students as “recruited athletes,” or because parents of current students are accused of paying for other kinds of cheating (including on admissions tests) to get their children admitted.
Automation already plays a significant role in the U.S. workplace, and most Americans expect technological advances to continue to alter the job landscape in the decades ahead. These seven charts, based on recent Pew Research Center surveys, highlight Americans’ views toward job automation:
1Most Americans anticipate widespread job automation in the coming decades. About eight-in-ten U.S. adults (82%) say that by 2050, robots and computers will definitely or probably do much of the work currently done by humans, according to a December 2018 Pew Research Center survey. A smaller share of employed adults (37%) say robots or computers will do the type of work they do by 2050.
2The U.S. public generally anticipates more negative than positive effects from widespread job automation. Around three-quarters of Americans (76%) say inequality between the rich and the poor would increase if robots and computers perform most of the jobs currently being done by humans by 2050. Only a third (33%) believe it’s likely that this kind of widespread automation would create many new, better-paying jobs for humans.
In a May 2017 Pew Research Center survey, around four-in-ten U.S. adults said an automated future would make the economy more efficient, let people focus on the most fulfilling aspects of their jobs or allow them to focus less on work and more on what really matters to them in life. In each instance, a majority of the public said these positive outcomes are unlikely.
About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.