From the 1980s until relatively recently, most national polling organizations conducted surveys by telephone, relying on live interviewers to call randomly selected Americans across the country. Then came the internet.
It has taken survey researchers some time to adapt to the idea of online surveys, but a quick look at the public polls on an issue like presidential approval reveals a landscape now dominated by online polls rather than phone polls. Pew Research Center itself now conducts the majority of its U.S. polling online, primarily through its American Trends Panel.
The fact that many public opinion surveys today are conducted online is no secret to avid poll watchers. What is not well known, however, is what this migration to online polling means for the country’s trove of data documenting American public opinion over the past four decades, on issues ranging from abortion and immigration to race relations and military interventions. Specifically, can pollsters just add new online results to a long chain of phone survey results, or is this an apples-to-oranges situation that requires us to essentially throw out the historical data and start anew?
After years of debate, United Methodist Church leaders voted this week to reaffirm the denomination’s opposition to same-sex marriages and openly gay clergy. As a result, many of the more liberal-leaning congregations are expected to leave the denomination, amounting to a schism in America’s largest mainline Protestant church.
These developments come at a time when many United Methodists in the United States have a more accepting view toward homosexuality. In Pew Research Center’s 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study, 60% of United Methodists said homosexuality should be accepted by society – a clear majority, and a substantial increase from 2007, when 51% said this. In addition, about half of U.S. Methodists (49%) said they favored legal same-sex marriage.
That survey was conducted nearly five years ago, and Americans’ views about homosexuality have shifted further since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. Members of all major religious traditions have become even more likely to favor legal same-sex marriage, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2017, the most recent year for which data are available. (That survey did not include enough United Methodists to analyze separately.)
American teens have a lot on their minds. Substantial shares point to anxiety and depression, bullying, and drug and alcohol use (and abuse) as major problems among people their age, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of youth ages 13 to 17.
How common are these and other experiences among U.S. teens? We reviewed the most recent available data from government and academic researchers to find out:
Anxiety and depression
Serious mental stress is a fact of life for many American teens. In the new survey, seven-in-ten teens say anxiety and depression are major problems among their peers – a concern that’s shared by mental health researchers and clinicians.
Data on the prevalence of anxiety disorders is hard to come by among teens specifically. But 7% of youths ages 3 to 17 had such a condition in 2016-17, according to the National Survey of Children’s Health. Serious depression, meanwhile, has been on the rise among teens for the past several years, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an ongoing project of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. In 2016, 12.8% of youths ages 12 to 17 had experienced a major depressive episode in the past year, up from 8% as recently as 2010. For 9% of youths in 2016, their depression caused severe impairment. Fewer than half of youths with major depression said they’d been treated for it in the past year.
Alcohol and drugs
Anxiety and depression aren’t the only concerns for U.S. teens. Smaller though still substantial shares of teens in the Pew Research Center survey say drug addiction (51%) and alcohol consumption (45%) are major problems among their peers.
President Donald Trump’s scheduled meeting in Vietnam this month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un comes at a time when many people around the world, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, continue to express concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program.
A median of 52% across 26 countries surveyed by Pew Research Center between May 14 and Aug. 12, 2018, consider North Korea’s nuclear program to be a major threat to their country. Roughly half the interviews in the survey were fielded before the first meeting between the two leaders on June 12, 2018.
Worries are especially prevalent in the five Asian-Pacific countries surveyed. There, a median of 61% say the nuclear program is a major threat. In Japan, nearly three-in-four (73%) see the nuclear program as a threat. Two-thirds in neighboring South Korea consider North Korea a nuclear threat. And roughly six-in-ten in the Philippines and Indonesia also have worries about the nuclear program.
In the United States, nearly six-in-ten see North Korea’s nuclear program as a major threat. Women are 19 percentage points more likely to be concerned than their male counterparts: 68% of women say that the nuclear program is a major threat, while 49% of men say the same. Americans ages 50 and older are also more likely to be concerned (66%) than those ages 18 to 29 (42%). Republicans and Republican-leaning independents as well as Democrats and Democratic leaners see the program as a major threat.
As the debate over college admissions policies reignites, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that most Americans (73%) say colleges and universities should not consider race or ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions. Just 7% say race should be a major factor in college admissions, while 19% say it should be a minor factor.
The issue emerged again earlier this month when a federal judge heard closing arguments in the high-profile lawsuit against Harvard University that could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court and influence the future of affirmative action in higher education.
While majorities across racial and ethnic groups agree that race should not be a factor in college admissions, white adults are particularly likely to hold this view: 78% say this, compared with 65% of Hispanics, 62% of blacks and 59% of Asians (the Asian sample includes only those who speak English).
There are also large partisan gaps on this issue. Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party are far more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to say that race or ethnicity should not be a factor in college admissions (85% vs. 63%). These party differences remain when looking only at whites: 88% of white Republicans say that colleges should not consider race in college admissions, compared with 66% of white Democrats.
Nearly six-in-ten Americans (57%) participate in some type of community group or organization, including about one-in-ten (11%) who say they participate in four or more community groups, according to a new analysis of data from a December 2017 Pew Research Center survey.
Participation rates are even higher among the roughly seven-in-ten Americans who say it is important to belong to a community that shares their values. Among this group, the share who participate in at least one organization (62%) is substantially higher than the 44% of all others who say they are involved in their community in one of these ways.
The December 2017 survey asked people if they were active in 10 specific types of community groups and organizations: church groups, hobby groups, charitable or volunteer organizations, professional associations, community groups, book clubs, parent groups or youth organizations, social clubs, performing arts groups and veterans’ groups. It also gave respondents the chance to say they are involved in some “other” type of group or organization (beyond the ones listed above).
The nation’s growing budget deficit has prompted little alarm among the U.S. public. In fact, the share of Americans who say reducing the budget deficit should be a top policy priority is much lower than it was during most of Barack Obama’s presidency.
In a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January, about half of Americans (48%) said reducing the budget deficit should be a top policy priority this year for the president and Congress. That was unchanged from 2018, but 24 percentage points lower than in 2013, at the start of Obama’s second term.
In this year’s survey, deficit reduction ranked well behind strengthening the economy (70% said this was a top priority), reducing health care costs (69%), improving the educational system (68%) and several other policy priorities.
The Office of Management and Budget projects the federal government will run a deficit of $984 billion in the current fiscal year. That would be the highest in seven years and more than double the deficit in fiscal 2015 ($438 billion).Read More →
Teens today are spending their time differently than they did a decade ago. They’re devoting more time to sleep and homework, and less time to paid work and socializing. But what has not changed are the differences between teen boys and girls in time spent on leisure, grooming, homework, housework and errands, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Overall, teens (ages 15 to 17) spend an hour a day, on average, doing homework during the school year, up from 44 minutes a day about a decade ago and 30 minutes in the mid-1990s.
Teens are also getting more shut-eye than they did in the past. They are clocking an average of over nine and a half hours of sleep a night, an increase of 22 minutes compared with teens a decade ago and almost an hour more than those in the mid-1990s. Sleep patterns fluctuate quite a bit – on weekends, teens average about 11 hours, while on weekdays they typically get just over nine hours a night. (While these findings are derived from time diaries in which respondents record the amount of time they slept on the prior night, results from other types of surveys suggest teens are getting fewer hours of sleep.) Read More →
The share of Latinos who say there are too many immigrants living in the United States has declined sharply over the past decade and a half, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey of Hispanic adults. This finding comes as the foreign-born share of the U.S. population approaches a record high and as the issue of immigration is a top policy priority for many Americans.
A quarter of Latinos in the U.S. say there are too many immigrants living in the country, while about half (48%) say there are the right amount and 14% say there are too few, according to the survey, conducted between July and September 2018. These numbers represent a dramatic shift from 2002 – the first time the Center asked this question – when 49% of Latinos said there were too many immigrants in the country, 37% said there were the right amount and 8% said there were too few.
Latino connections to the immigrant experience are strong. Just under half of Latino adults are foreign born and another 31% are the U.S.-born children of immigrant parents, according to a Center analysis of the Current Population Survey. Today, immigrants from Latin America make up more than half of the roughly 45 million immigrants living in the country, including the majority of unauthorized immigrants.
Among the many reported reasons people in the United Kingdom voted in 2016 to leave the European Union are a sense of eroding national identity and increasingly negative attitudes toward religious minorities, particularly Muslims. But on these topics, British public opinion is not outside the EU mainstream, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. In fact, in a 2017 survey that asked about these issues, the views of British adults align very closely to general opinion across the EU, even though no other country has yet voted to leave.
While a majority of British adults say that being born in their country and having family background from their country are important to truly share their national identity (57% and 58%, respectively), six-in-ten people across the EU also hold those views (both medians of 62%). And roughly one-third of people in both the UK and the EU would not be willing to have a Muslim family member (36% and median of 35%, respectively).
Indeed, while the British frequently are near the middle of EU opinion on some topics that featured in Brexit debates, other EU countries have much higher levels of nationalist feeling and anti-religious minority sentiment. For example, roughly eight-in-ten Czechs say they would be unwilling to have a Muslim family member (79% vs. 36% in the UK). And two-thirds of Romanians agree that, “Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others” (66% vs. 46% in the UK).
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.