Congressional leaders and the White House recently agreed on a two-year spending deal that would raise the national debt limit. The deal, which still must be approved by the full Congress, would increase federal spending and suspend the debt ceiling until after the 2020 presidential election.
With federal spending and debt back in the news, it’s a good time for an update of our primer on the U.S. national debt, the debt limit and interest payments on the nation’s credit line:
1The federal government’s total debt stands at $22.023 trillion as of the end of June, according to the Treasury Department’s monthly reckoning. Of this amount, nearly $22 trillion is subject to the statutory debt ceiling, leaving just $25 million in unused debt capacity.
The majority of Baby Boomers (U.S. adults born 1946 to 1964) are still in the labor force, and the oldest among them are staying in the labor force at the highest annual rate for people their age in more than half a century. In 2018, 29% of Boomers ages 65 to 72 were working or looking for work, outpacing the labor market engagement of the Silent Generation (21%) and the Greatest Generation (19%) when they were the same age, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of official labor force data.
The modern high rate of older Boomers staying in the labor force is attributable to both Boomer women and men. Throughout adulthood, Boomer women have been more likely to be in the labor force than earlier generations, paving the way for their high labor force participation at the ages of 65 to 72 (25%). At the same time, 34% of Boomer men ages 65 to 72 were in the labor force in 2018. Older men have not participated in the labor force at that rate since the early 1970s.
Looking at younger Baby Boomers, 66% of adults ages 54 to 64 were in the labor force in 2018. Though surpassing the Silent and Greatest generations when they were the same age, that is not a modern record since a similar portion of this age group was in the labor force during the Great Recession.
Every year since 2004, Pew Research Center has issued an assessment of the state of the news media, tracking key audience and economic indicators for a variety of sectors within the U.S. journalism industry. Here are some key findings about the state of the industry in 2018:
1U.S. newspaper circulation reached its lowest level since 1940, the first year with available data. Total daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) was an estimated 28.6 million for weekday and 30.8 million for Sunday in 2018. Those numbers were down 8% and 9%, respectively, from the previous year, according to the Center’s analysis of Alliance for Audited Media data. Both figures are now below their lowest recorded levels, though weekday circulation first passed this threshold in 2013.
Digital circulation for daily newspapers is harder to track. It did rise in 2018, though not enough to fully reverse the overall decline in circulation.
Revenue from circulation was steady in 2018, but ad revenue for newspapers fell 13%, according to an analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Though some national publications have seen growth in revenue and in digital subscriptions over the past few years, the newspaper sector overall continues to face challenges.
As former Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller prepares to testify before Congress, nearly two-thirds of Americans – including, for the first time, a majority of Republicans – say they are confident he conducted a fair investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The public is far less confident that the Trump administration is taking action to prevent Russia from influencing future U.S. elections. About half of Americans (46%) are very or somewhat confident that the administration is making a serious effort to block future Russian influence, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
Republicans’ views of Mueller’s investigation, which were generally negative over the probe’s two-year course, are much more positive now that it has been completed. Six-in-ten Republicans and Republican-leaning independents now say they are confident in the fairness of the investigation. In January, just 39% of Republicans said they were confident Mueller was conducting a fair inquiry.
Many Americans say that religion is very important in their lives. But how much do people in the U.S. actually know about their faith tradition – or about religions besides their own?
A new report from Pew Research Center tries to answer this question by asking U.S. adults 32 fact-based questions about a variety of religious topics. The survey includes questions about the Bible and Christianity, as well as atheism, agnosticism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Respondents also were asked about religious demographics.
The average U.S. adult is able to answer slightly fewer than half of the religious knowledge questions correctly (14.2 of the 32). But the survey finds that Americans’ level of knowledge varies based on who is answering the questions.
Here are key findings from the report:
Before you read this
Test your religious knowledge by taking an interactive quiz. The short quiz includes some questions recently asked in the nationally representative survey that forms the basis of this report. After completing the quiz, you can see how you did in comparison with the general public and with people like yourself.
1Most Americans are familiar with some of the basics of Christianity, and even know a few facts about Islam. But fewer get questions right about Judaism, Hinduism or Buddhism. Eight-in-ten U.S. adults know that in the Christian tradition, Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus – rather than the Crucifixion, the Ascension to heaven or the Last Supper. A similar share know the Christian doctrine of the Trinity holds that there is one God in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And six-in-ten know that Ramadan is an Islamic holy month and that Mecca is Islam’s holiest city. However, just one-quarter of Americans know that Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year. Roughly one-in-five Americans (18%) know that the “truth of suffering” is part of Buddhism’s four “noble truths,” and 15% correctly identify the Vedas as Hindu texts. Read More →
Many Americans see declining levels of trust in the country, whether it is their confidence in the federal government and elected officials or their trust of each other, a new Pew Research Center report finds. And most believe that the interplay between the trust issues in the public and the interpersonal sphere has made it harder to solve some of the country’s problems. This research is part of the Center’s ongoing focus on issues tied to trust, facts and democracy. Here are some of the key takeaways from these findings:
1Americans think the public’s trust has been declining in both the federal government and in their fellow citizens. Three-quarters of Americans say that their fellow citizens’ trust in the federal government has been shrinking, and 64% believe that about peoples’ trust in each other.
When asked a separate question about the reasons why trust has declined in the past 20 years, people offer a host of reasons in their written answers. Those who think there has been a decline of trust in the federal government over these two decades often see the problem tied to the government’s performance: 36% of those who see the decline cite this. Some worry the government is doing too much, others say too little, and others mention the government doing the wrong things or nothing at all. Respondents also cite concerns about how money has corrupted it and how corporations control the political process. President Donald Trump and his administration are mentioned in 14% of answers, and a smaller share lays the blame on Democrats. Additionally, 10% of those who see decline lay fault at the feet of the news media.
Those who think interpersonal trust has declined in the past generation offer a laundry list of societal and political problems, including a sense that Americans on the whole have become more lazy, greedy and dishonest. Some respondents make a connection between what they think is poor government performance – especially gridlock in Washington – and the toll it has taken on their fellow citizens’ hearts. Overall, 49% of adults think interpersonal trust has been tailing off because people are less reliable than they used to be. Read More →
Most Americans, including majorities of both Republicans and Democrats, see higher education as a gateway to good job opportunities.
However, a recent Pew Research Center survey finds that Republicans are much more skeptical than Democrats when it comes to whether colleges and universities are open to different points of view. This partisan gap is not just limited to views of these institutions – Republicans also are less likely than Democrats to see community colleges and K-12 public schools as open to a wide range of opinions and viewpoints.
Overall, about two-thirds of Americans (68%) say colleges and universities are very or somewhat open to a wide range of opinions and viewpoints; 31% say they are not too or not at all open. But among Republicans and those who lean to the Republican Party, 44% believe colleges and universities are at least somewhat open to a wide range of views. Democrats and Democratic leaners are nearly twice as likely (87%) to feel this way.
President Donald Trump’s recent attacks on four first-term lawmakers – all women of color – triggered an impassioned response from House Democrats, who overwhelmingly backed a House resolution condemning the president’s remarks. This is just the latest chapter in a long-running debate over what language is appropriate in political debates in the United States. A recent Pew Research Center survey examined Americans’ attitudes about this topic, including Trump’s impact on political discourse and the potential risks from incendiary rhetoric from elected officials:
1Large majorities of Americans say the tone and nature of political debate in the United States has become more negative in recent years. More than eight-in-ten U.S. adults (85%) say that political debate in the country has become more negative and less respectful, according to a survey conducted this spring. About three-quarters (76%) say it has become less fact-based and 60% say it has become less focused on issues.
A majority of Americans (62%) continue to say the country’s openness to people from around the world is “essential to who we are as a nation.”
But the share expressing this view is 6 percentage points lower than it was in September – a result of a shift in opinion among Republicans. Democrats continue to overwhelmingly take the view that openness is an essential characteristic of the nation.
Currently, 57% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say that if the United States is too open to people from around the world, “we risk losing our identity as a nation.” Fewer (37%) say America’s openness to those from other countries is essential to who we are as a nation, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted July 10-15 among 1,502 adults.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which was the first time humans set foot on the moon. The United States remains the only country to have put people on the moon, and, as of 2018, the large majority of Americans consider it essential that the U.S. continue to be a leader in space exploration. However, many Americans do not think future manned trips to the moon – or to Mars – should be a high priority for NASA. Instead, they put higher priority on other roles such as monitoring Earth’s climate or asteroids that could hit Earth.
Here are six Pew Research Center findings about Americans’ views of space travel.
1Most Americans think sending astronauts to Mars or the moon should be a lower priority for NASA – or say it should not be done at all. While a majority of Americans (58%) said in a 2018 survey that human astronauts are essential to the future of the U.S. space program, less than one-in-five describe sending human astronauts to Mars (18%) or the moon (13%) as top priorities for NASA. Americans are more likely to rate these goals as “important but lower priorities” (45% and 42%, respectively), or to say they are not important or should not be done at all (37% and 44%).
NASA has not put a human on the surface of the moon since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. But just last month, NASA announced plans to put the first woman on the moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis program. The program also aims to put human beings on the surface of Mars by the 2030s.
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.