The annual meeting of the American Political Science Association took place in Washington, D.C., in September, with researchers from around the world showcasing new findings. Below are brief summaries of some of the research presented at the conference (though the meeting covered many other subjects, and our researchers couldn’t attend every panel). Several of these papers relate to past Pew Research Center work on misinformation and survey methodology.
As is true of many academic conferences, some of these results may be preliminary and could be revised, and several of the papers are not yet published in peer-reviewed journals. The full conference program is available here.
Researchers are learning more about early political socialization. Researchers from the University of Notre Dame looked at the formative years of political life using a nationally representative sample of teens ages 15 to 18. They showed that teen girls were particularly energized by the 2018 midterm election, and that, compared with boys, girls’ belief that they can make a difference politically (such as by writing elected officials, protesting or otherwise making their voices heard) improved dramatically.
Guns are deeply ingrained in American society. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives Americans the right to bear arms, and three-in-ten American adults personally own a gun. Most of these gun owners say the right to own firearms is essential to their own personal sense of freedom.
At the same time, gun violence – from big-city murders to mass shootings – has spurred debate in Congress and state legislatures over proposals to limit Americans’ access to firearms. Counting murders and suicides, nearly 40,000 people died of gun-related violence in the United States in 2017, the highest annual total in decades.
Here are seven key findings about Americans’ experiences with and attitudes toward guns, drawn from recent Pew Research Center surveys and other data sources.
1Three-in-ten American adults (30%) say they personally own a gun, and an additional 11% say they live with someone who does, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March and April 2017. Whether or not they personally own a gun, Americans have broad exposure to firearms: Nearly half of U.S. adults (48%) grew up in a household with guns, nearly six-in-ten (59%) have friends who own guns and around seven-in-ten (72%) have fired a gun at some point in their lives – including 55% of those who have never personally owned a gun.
Among Americans who own a gun, nearly two-thirds (66%) say they own more than one, including 29% who own five or more. A large majority of gun owners (72%) own a handgun or pistol, while 62% own a rifle and 54% own a shotgun. About three-quarters of gun owners (73%) say they could never see themselves not owning a gun.
2Protection tops the list of reasons why gun owners have a gun, according to the same survey. Two-thirds of gun owners (67%) say this is a major reason why they own a firearm. Considerably smaller shares say hunting (38%), sport shooting (30%), gun collecting (13%) or their job (8%) are major reasons. While men and women are about equally likely to cite protection (65% and 71%, respectively) as a major reason they own a gun, women are more likely than men to cite protection as the only reason (27% of women vs. 8% of men). Higher shares of male gun owners than female gun owners point to hunting (43% vs. 31%) and sport shooting (34% vs. 23%) as major reasons for gun ownership.
The European Union is viewed favorably across much of the world, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
A median of 58% of adults across 33 surveyed countries have a favorable opinion of the EU, while just 27% hold an unfavorable view. In the 19 non-EU countries surveyed, attitudes are also positive, with a median of 51% expressing a favorable view and 25% reporting an unfavorable opinion (though a significant proportion of respondents in some countries offer no opinion).
Central and Eastern Europeans tend to express the most enthusiasm toward the EU: Across six countries in the region, positive ratings outweigh negative ones by more than three-to-one (a median of 74% vs. a median of 23%).
People in Poland (84%) and Lithuania (83%) are especially positive, giving the two highest ratings for the EU of all countries included in the study. Enthusiasm is more tempered in the Czech Republic, though 52% of Czechs still rate the EU favorably.
Western Europeans largely see the Brussels-based institution positively. Across the eight Western European nations surveyed, a median of 62% give the EU favorable marks.
While still generally positive, sizable shares in France (47%), the UK (44%) and Greece (44%) hold unfavorable views of the EU. In fact, people in these three nations are as negative or more negative toward the EU than people in Russia, where 44% have an unfavorable view.
As the 2020 U.S. census approaches, Americans overwhelmingly are aware of it, and more than eight-in-ten (84%) say they definitely or probably will participate, a new Pew Research Center survey finds. Still, 16% express at least some uncertainty about responding, with higher shares saying this among some demographic groups.
Black and Hispanic adults, as well as those with lower income levels, are more likely to say they probably or definitely will not participate in the census, or that they might or might not. Black and Hispanic adults have been undercounted in the past, while lower-income adults are classified as a “hard to count” population, according to Census Bureau research.
Age is also an important predictor of whether people say they may participate, even after controlling for other factors. Young adults – those ages 18 to 29 – are least likely to be on board of the four age groups included in this analysis.
There is no notable difference between Democrats and Republicans (including those who lean toward each party) when it comes to awareness of the census and intention to participate.
The new national survey was conducted online Sept. 16-29 among 6,878 adults, in English and Spanish, using Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel.
Three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, people in former West and East Germany overwhelmingly say the unification of their country was a positive development, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Large majorities in both areas say the changes that have unfolded in Germany since 1989 have had a good influence on living standards, health care and national pride, and most also see improvements in areas including family values, spiritual values and law and order.
On a personal level, too, Germans are happier with their lives, according to the survey, which was conducted in spring 2019 among representative samples of adults in the pre-1990 Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and former German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Majorities in both areas now place themselves at 7 or higher on a 10-point “ladder” of life satisfaction, where 10 represents the best possible life. When Pew Research Center asked the life satisfaction question in 1991 and 2009, no more than roughly half in either area placed themselves in this top tier. The increase has been especially dramatic in the former East, where the share who rate their lives at 7 or higher has almost quadrupled from just 15% in 1991 to 59% this year.
Despite widespread positive sentiments among Germans about the changes of the past 30 years, the perspectives of those in the former West and East still differ in some notable ways. Here is a look at some of the areas where these differences are most pronounced. Read More →
Donald Trump made fighting crime a central focus of his campaign for president, and he cited it again during his January 2017 inaugural address. His administration has since taken steps intended to address crime in American communities, such as instructing federal prosecutors to pursue the strongest possible charges against criminal suspects. Here are five facts about crime in the United States.
1Violent crime in the U.S. has fallen sharply over the past quarter century. The two most commonly cited sources of crime statistics in the U.S. both show a substantial decline in the violent crime rate since it peaked in the early 1990s. One is an annual report by the FBI of serious crimes reported to police in more than 18,500 jurisdictions around the country. The other is a nationally representative annual survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which asks approximately 160,000 Americans ages 12 and older whether they were victims of crime, regardless of whether they reported those crimes to the police.
Using the FBI numbers, the violent crime rate fell 51% between 1993 and 2018. Using the BJS data, the rate fell 71% during that span. The long-term decline in violent crime hasn’t been uninterrupted, though. The FBI, for instance, reported increases in the violent crime rate between 2004 and 2006 and again between 2014 and 2016. Violent crime includes offenses such as rape, robbery and assault.
Despite deep partisan divisions on the issue, there has been a modest rise in support for stricter gun laws in the United States since 2017, a new Pew Research Center survey has found.
In addition, while opinion on most gun policies has changed little in recent years, somewhat more Americans favor banning high capacity ammunition magazines today (71%) than did so two years ago (65%).
Overall, the share of Americans who say gun laws in the U.S. should be made stricter has increased from 52% in 2017 to 60% this year, according to a survey conducted in September. The share of those saying gun laws should be less strict has dropped from 18% in 2017 to 11% today.
As with attitudes on many gun-related issues, there are sharp partisan divides about whether gun laws should be stricter. Currently, 86% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents favor stricter gun laws, compared with 31% of Republicans and Republican leaners. The share of Democrats who support stricter gun laws has risen 11 percentage points since 2017, while there has been 7-point increase in support among Republicans.
Results of a new Pew Research Center survey conducted in 14 European Union member states and the United States indicate that American and European values sometimes vary when it comes to key areas affecting their lives: the factors important to democracy, evaluations of the state, LGBT rights and gender, the importance of religion and the paths to a successful life. Here is what we found in these five areas:
1Americans and Western Europeans largely agree about what is important for democracy, but they put greater emphasis on these principles than Central and Eastern Europeans. Across nine democratic traits asked about in the survey, Americans and Western Europeans were both likely to be in agreement on what was “very important” on most issues. Roughly nine-in-ten Americans (93%) and a median of 90% of Western Europeans say it’s very important to have a fair judiciary. In comparison, a median of 77% in Central and Eastern Europe say a fair judiciary is very important. Americans are about as likely as Western Europeans to say that honest, regular elections with at least two parties are very important for the country, and both see this as more important than most in Central and Eastern Europe.
One issue where Americans stand out slightly from their Western European counterparts is the importance they place on censorship-free media. Eight-in-ten Americans think it’s very important that the media be able to report freely without government intervention, while a median of 72% of Western Europeans say the same, ranging from a high of 89% in Greece to a low of 56% in Italy. Opinion also varies markedly across Central and Eastern Europe, from a high of 76% in Hungary to a low of 56% in Slovakia.
In 1991, Pew Research Center’s predecessor organization, the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press, conducted a groundbreaking survey in Europe shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We returned to the same set of countries in 2009 to explore how public opinion had changed – and are doing so again today, with the release of a new survey that explores European attitudes three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Here are 10 key takeaways from the new survey, which was conducted from May 13 to Aug. 12, 2019, among 18,979 adults in 14 European Union member nations – plus Russia, Ukraine and the United States, for comparison purposes.
1On balance, people across the former Soviet bloc nations approve of the changeover to a multiparty electoral system and free market economy. Majorities in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania and the area corresponding to former East Germany all rate these transitions favorably.
However, those in Russia are less likely to approve of the democratic and capitalist changeover. In fact, 63% of Russians agree it is a misfortune the Soviet Union no longer exists.
National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 each year, celebrates U.S. Latinos, their culture and their history. Started in 1968 by Congress as Hispanic Heritage Week, it was expanded to a month in 1988. The celebration begins in the middle rather than the start of September because it coincides with national independence days in several Latin American countries: Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica celebrate theirs on Sept. 15, followed by Mexico on Sept. 16, Chile on Sept. 18 and Belize on Sept 21.
Here are some key facts about the nation’s Latino population by age, geography and origin groups.
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.