While public trust in scientists and their work can be mixed, a strong majority of the American public thinks of science as having a positive effect on society, and most expect continued benefits to accrue from science in the years ahead.
About seven-in-ten U.S. adults (73%) say science has had a positive effect on society, just 3% say it has had a negative effect and 23% say it has yielded an equal mix of positive and negative effects, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
White adults are more likely than black and Hispanic adults to see the effects of science in positive terms. And people who have higher levels of factual knowledge about science, based on an 11-item index, are especially likely to think science has had a positive effect overall. Read More →
Which kinds of statements do Americans see as acceptable in political debate, and which are out of bounds? How do people view the way President Donald Trump and other elected officials talk about politics? How do they navigate conversations about politics and other sensitive topics with strangers and friends? In conducting a recent major survey about political discourse in the United States, we at Pew Research Center sought to use techniques and experiments to help capture the nuances of how Americans feel about the tenor of debate in the country. Here are some of the ways we went about it.
Using scenarios to make questions feel connected to people’s own lives. We tend to use scenarios selectively in our surveys because they are time-consuming and there often are more direct ways to measure people’s views about a subject.
But we wanted to get people to think about how they might approach a conversation with someone who differs from them politically. So, it made sense to develop a scenario that asked them to imagine such a situation.
We asked people about their attitudes on several topics in the news – raising the minimum wage, banning assault weapons and expanding the U.S.-Mexico border wall, as well as whether they approve of Trump’s job performance. Later in the survey, we asked them to imagine being at a small dinner with people who took the opposite view from their own on all these topics, including Trump.
This approach proved revealing: People said they would be more comfortable talking about the three other topics than about Trump. And there were, at most, only slight differences in Americans’ willingness to talk about these subjects at a dinner gathering depending on their views on assault weapons and the other topics.
But that was not the case with Trump. Those who disapproved of the way he is handling his job were far less likely than Trump approvers to say they would be willing to share their opinions about him in a social gathering with those who had the opposite view (43% of those who disapproved vs. 57% of those who approved).
So, what exactly are teens doing with their cellphones?
The vast majority of cellphone-using teens say their phone is a way to just pass time, with nine-in-ten saying they often or sometimes use it this way, according to a Pew Research Center survey of 13- to 17-year-olds conducted in 2018. Similarly large shares of teen cellphone users say they at least sometimes use their phone to connect with other people (84%) or learn new things (83%).
Teen boys and girls are about equally likely to say they often or sometimes use their devices to connect with other people (85% vs. 83%, respectively), just pass the time (both 90%) or learn new things (79% vs. 87%).
Lower fertility rates and aging populations have become worldwide concerns, but the G7 nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – have stood out for their lower birth rates and graying of their citizens since the mid-20th century, when the United Nations first recorded this data.
The biggest gap occurred during 1970-1975, when the group of leading industrial nations was established. At that time, the global fertility rate was 4.47 projected lifetime births per woman, but 2.03 among G7 nations. The gap between global fertility rates and those of the G7 nations has closed dramatically since then, and the UN projects that the gap between global and G7 fertility will continue to narrow.
France will preside over the 45th annual G7 summit this weekend in Biarritz. The meeting will focus on improving access to health care and education and the promotion of gender equality, among other issues. Not on the agenda is the aging of the global population, which the UN has identified as one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century.
Internet use is rising in emerging economies, but access to fast, reliable service remains elusive to many living in these nations. Some tech companies have been working to address this issue, as has the United Nations. But what role should the government play in getting all residents digitally connected?
A median of 65% across 11 emerging economies say it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to reliable internet service, according to a Pew Research Center survey of adults conducted last fall. Smaller shares – three-in-ten – say this should not be the responsibility of the government.
This sentiment is more pronounced in certain countries. For example, roughly three-quarters of adults in Venezuela and Lebanon agree it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to reliable internet. By comparison, around half of South Africans share this view.
These opinions also differ by personal internet use in most countries surveyed. In seven of 11 nations, internet-using adults are more likely than non-internet users to believe the government has a responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to reliable internet.
In the United States, the white share of the population is declining as Hispanic, Asian and black populations grow. But the shift to a more diverse nation is happening more quickly in some places than in others.
From 2000 to 2018, 109 counties in 22 states, from California to Kansas to North Carolina, went from majority white to majority nonwhite – that is, counties where non-Hispanic whites are no longer the majority, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. (Our analysis includes only counties with a minimum population of 10,000 in 2018. These counties represent 77% of the nation’s 3,142 counties and include 99% of the U.S. population.)
Atheists, agnostics and those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular” all fit into the broad category “religiously unaffiliated.” But there are differences among them: Atheists and agnostics, for instance, know more about religion than those in the “nothing in particular” group, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey designed to measure the U.S. public’s knowledge about a wide range of religious topics.
Here are five key findings from our analysis of responses given by the religiously unaffiliated, also known as religious “nones”:
1Atheists and agnostics know more about religion than most other religious groups, while people who identify as “nothing in particular” are among the least knowledgeable. Out of 32 multiple-choice questions on the survey, atheists and agnostics get more than half right, on average (17.9 and 17.0 questions correct, respectively), while those who say their religion is “nothing in particular” get about a third correct (11.4 questions). This means that atheists and agnostics are among the highest scorers on the survey – along with Jews and evangelical Protestants – while those who say their religion is “nothing in particular” have some of the lowest scores. Americans overall get an average of 14.2 out of 32 questions right.
Black and Hispanic adults remain less likely than whites to say they own a traditional computer or have high speed internet at home, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in early 2019. But smartphones are playing a role in helping to bridge these differences.
Roughly eight-in-ten whites (82%) report owning a desktop or laptop computer, compared with 58% of blacks and 57% of Hispanics. There are also substantial racial and ethnic differences in broadband adoption, with whites being more likely than either blacks or Hispanics to report having a broadband connection at home. (There were not enough Asian respondents in the sample to be broken out into a separate analysis.)
But despite these differences, black and Hispanic adults have mobile devices such as smartphones in shares similar to whites. About eight-in-ten whites, blacks and Hispanics own a smartphone. There are, however, differences between Hispanics born inside and outside the U.S.: 87% of U.S.-born Hispanics own a smartphone, compared with 69% of Hispanics born abroad.
Mobile devices play a larger role for black and Hispanic people when it comes to their online access options. Some 25% of Hispanics and 23% of blacks are “smartphone only” internet users – meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone. By comparison, 12% of whites fall into this category.
What comes to mind when people think of research scientists?
Studies have explored the idea that stereotypes of scientists – like the less-than-warm image of men in white lab coats – could undermine public trust in them or result in deterring diverse groups from pursuing education and jobs in science.
A Pew Research Center survey presented Americans with a list of five desirable and five not-so-desirable qualities and asked whether each describes research scientists well. We found that large majorities see an array of positive qualities in scientists.
About nine-in-ten (89%) of those surveyed think of research scientists as intelligent. Three-quarters (75%) see scientists as focused on solving real-world problems. Similar shares say they consider scientists to be skilled at working in teams (72%) or honest (71%).
Scientists fared less well when Americans were asked if they considered them to be good communicators – a smaller majority (54%) described them this way.
Less than half the public considers each of five potential negative characteristics to fit their image of research scientists. The most common of these are “feel superior to others” and “socially awkward” (43% each say these describe research scientists well).
The recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio – along with a spate of shootings in Chicago – have brought renewed attention to deadly gun violence in the United States. As President Donald Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill contemplate policy responses, here are 10 common questions about gun deaths in the U.S., with answers based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the FBI and other sources. You can also explore key public opinion findings about gun violence and gun policy in the U.S. by reading our recent roundup.
How many people die from gun-related injuries in the U.S. each year?
In 2017, the most recent year for which complete data is available, 39,773 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S., according to the CDC. This figure includes gun murders and gun suicides, along with three other, less common types of gun-related deaths tracked by the CDC: those that were unintentional, involved law enforcement or whose circumstances could not be determined. It excludes deaths in which gunshot injuries played a contributing, but not principal, role. (CDC fatality statistics are based on information contained in death certificates.)
What share of U.S. gun deaths are murders and what share are suicides?
Though they tend to get less attention than gun-related murders, suicides have long accounted for the majority of U.S. gun deaths. In 2017, six-in-ten gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides (23,854), while 37% were murders (14,542), according to the CDC. The remainder were unintentional (486), involved law enforcement (553) or had undetermined circumstances (338).
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.