The Supreme Court holds a unique place in American government. Sitting justices have lifetime tenure and can influence public policy long after the presidents who nominated them – and the senators who confirmed them – have departed. Partisans have often battled over these nominations because of the court’s ability to reshape or strike down laws favored by one side or another.
The court begins a new term on Oct. 7, taking up cases on guns, abortion and gay rights, among other issues. As the term begins, here are five facts about the Supreme Court, based on surveys and other recent research by Pew Research Center.
1The public’s opinion of the Supreme Court has rebounded after falling to a 30-year low in the summer of 2015. Around six-in-ten Americans (62%) have a favorable view of the high court and 31% have an unfavorable view, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in July. The share of Americans with a favorable view of the court is 14 percentage points higher than in July 2015, when only around half (48%) approved. The 2015 survey was conducted in the wake of a term that saw the justices uphold the Affordable Care Act and legalize same-sex marriage; it found that views of the court were strongly linked to views of these high-profile issues.
A majority of Americans are skeptical of the impact that industry funding has on scientific research and on the recommendations made by practitioners, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. The public is somewhat more positive – though still ambivalent – about the effects of government funding on research and practitioner recommendations.
Most U.S. adults (58%) say they trust scientific research findings less if they hear that the research was funded by an industry group. About a third (32%) say industry funding makes no difference in whether they trust research, while only 10% say they trust industry-funded research findings more.
The pattern is similar when it comes to trusting science practitioners’ recommendations. Around six-in-ten Americans (62%) say they trust practitioner recommendations less when they hear the practitioner received financial incentives from an industry group. Around a quarter (27%) say such incentives make no difference; 10% say they trust practitioner recommendations more under these circumstances.
The U.S. House’s impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s interactions with the president of Ukraine comes more than two decades after the last presidential impeachment crisis – the one that engulfed President Bill Clinton in 1998 and early 1999. The circumstances – factual, political and societal – were very different back then, and so was U.S. public opinion about the push for impeachment.
A quick review of the facts: In early 1998, rumors began circulating that Clinton had had a sexual relationship with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Clinton denied the allegations, both publicly and in a sworn deposition, but later admitted they were true. Independent counsel Kenneth Starr, whose investigation started as an inquiry into the Clintons’ financial dealings but broadened to other matters, argued that Clinton had committed perjury and obstructed justice by trying to influence the testimony of Lewinsky and other witnesses. The Republican-controlled House impeached Clinton on those charges, but in February 1999 the Senate – also led by Republicans – acquitted him.
While the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits school-sponsored prayer in public schools, the court also has made clear that individual students have a right to pray in public settings. And, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of teens ages 13 to 17, a sizable share of students in public school are availing themselves of this right.
About a quarter of teens who identify with a religion and attend public school (26%) say they regularly pray before eating lunch at school. There are differences across religious groups, with 39% of evangelical Protestant teens, 18% of Catholic teens and 11% of mainline Protestant teens saying they often or sometimes pray before eating lunch. (The survey’s sample size was not large enough to report on the practices of teens who belong to most other religious groups.)
The survey also examined public school prayer from a different angle by asking teens whether they see other students praying before eating lunch. Around one-in-six teens in public schools (16%) say they often or sometimes see other students doing this. Teens who identify with a religion are more likely than those who self-identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” to notice this (19% vs. 9%).
Over the course of the nation’s history, there has been a slow but steady decrease in the size of the average U.S. household – from 5.79 people per household in 1790 to 2.58 in 2010. But this decade will likely be the first since the one that began in 1850 to break this long-running trend, according to newly released Census Bureau data. In 2018 there were 2.63 people per household.
Households are increasing in size mathematically because the growth in the number of households is trailing population growth. The newly released data indicates that the population residing in households has grown 6% since 2010 (the smallest population growth since the 1930s), while the number of households has grown at a slower rate (4%, from 116.7 million in 2010 to 121.5 million in 2018).
The increase in household size is significant because it could have implications for national economic growth. Rising household size reduces the demand for housing, resulting in less residential construction and less demand for home appliances and furniture. In general, it leads to a less vigorous housing sector – fewer apartment leases and home purchases, as well as less spending related to housing, such as cable company subscriptions and home accessories suppliers.
The long-running decline in American household size can be tied to at least two demographic trends. The size of immediate families has declined over time as women have had fewer children. In 1790, the total fertility rate of white women was 7.0 births (meaning a white woman had, on average, seven births in her lifetime). By 1870 it had fallen to 4.6 births, and by 1940 it stood at 2.2. For black women, the total fertility rates were 7.7 and 2.8 births for 1870 and 1940, respectively.
As the People’s Republic of China celebrates the 70th anniversary of its founding on Oct. 1, it gets mixed reviews from people around the world, according to Pew Research Center’s latest Global Attitudes Survey. A median of 41% across the 32 countries surveyed have a favorable opinion of China, compared with a median of 37% who have an unfavorable opinion.
And, while majorities in most countries agree China’s influence on the world stage has grown markedly, this has not necessarily translated into favorable views of the country, according to the survey of 34,904 people conducted May 13 to Aug. 29, 2019.
Opinion of China across most of Western Europe is, on balance, negative. While 51% in Greece have a positive view of China, pluralities or majorities in Western European countries have an unfavorable view, ranging from 53% in Spain to 70% in Sweden. The share of people who evaluate China positively has also dropped since 2018 by double-digits in nearly half of the Western European countries surveyed, including Sweden (down 17 percentage points), the Netherlands (-11 points) and the UK (-11). Only in Greece and Italy has opinion improved.
The first full fiscal year of the Trump administration saw large increases in the number of people arrested and criminally prosecuted for immigration offenses such as entering and reentering the United States illegally, according to recently published government data.
The number of federal criminal arrests for immigration offenses surged from 58,031 in fiscal 2017 to 108,667 in fiscal 2018 – an 87% increase, according to an August report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). The 2018 total was considerably higher than in any other fiscal year in two decades.
Following the same trajectory, the number of suspects who were criminally prosecuted for immigration offenses rose 66% between fiscal 2017 and 2018, from 59,797 to 99,479 – also a two-decade high.
The tandem increases follow a sharp decline during the second term of the Obama administration and appear to be largely the result of recent policy changes to subject more border crossers to criminal rather than civil penalties, as opposed to an increase in migrant apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border. The year-over-year growth in criminal arrests and prosecutions far outpaced the 30% increase in apprehensions at the southwest border during the same period, according to separate data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. (The 2018 fiscal year ended last Sept. 30.)
An outbreak of lung injuries among e-cigarette users across much of the United States has focused national attention on the potential dangers of vaping, prompting the federal government and some states to take policy steps in response.
The exact cause of the respiratory illness has not yet been determined, and there is still uncertainty surrounding the specific health risks associated with vaping. E-cigarettes create a water vapor that users inhale, using cartridges that typically contain nicotine, flavorings or cannabis products along with chemicals.
As medical professionals and policymakers grapple with questions over e-cigarettes and public health, here’s a look at what survey data – gathered before the recent outbreak – shows about e-cigarette use in the United States.
Roughly a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 8 to Feb. 7. Who are these non-book readers?
Several demographic traits correlate with non-book reading, Pew Research Center surveys have found. For instance, adults with a high school diploma or less are far more likely than those with a bachelor’s or advanced degree to report not reading books in any format in the 12 months before the survey (44% vs. 8%). Adults with lower levels of educational attainment are also among the least likely to own smartphones, a device that saw a substantial increase in usage for reading e-books from 2011 to 2016. (College-educated adults are more likely to own these devices and use them to read e-books.)
Adults whose annual household income is $30,000 or less are more likely than those living in households earning $75,000 or more a year to be non-book readers (36% vs. 14%). Hispanic (40%) and black (33%) adults are more likely than whites (22%) to report not having read a book in the past 12 months. But there are differences between Hispanics born inside and outside the United States: 56% of foreign-born Hispanics report not having read a book, compared with 27% of Hispanics born in the U.S.
Although the differences are less pronounced, non-book reading does vary by gender, age and community type.
Andrew Kohut, the founding director of Pew Research Center and its president from 2004 to 2012, was one of the nation’s leading pollsters. He died in 2015. His work, over three decades, won him wide respect for his expertise and ability to craft stories about what people could learn from survey research. One of his particular talents was to reach back in time to take a snapshot of the mood of Americans in another era to show how much times had changed.
Here is one of those articles, originally published on Aug. 8, 2014.
Forty years ago today, Richard Nixon announced his resignation from the nation’s highest office, making that decision in the face of almost certain impeachment by the House and plummeting public support, as a majority of Americans called for his removal from office. But it happened in stages.
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.