The 117th U.S. Congress took office in January, with Democrats holding narrow majorities in the House and Senate.
Apart from its political makeup, the new Congress differs from prior ones in other ways, including its demographics. Here are seven charts that show how the demographic profile of Congress has changed over time, using historical data from CQ Roll Call, the Congressional Research Service and other sources.
Black Americans stand out from other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. for their high levels of concern about the coronavirus pandemic, with 81% considering the outbreak a major threat to public health and about half (49%) seeing it as a major threat to their personal health, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in February.
About a third of Black adults (35%) are very concerned that they themselves will get the coronavirus and require hospitalization, and another 29% are at least somewhat concerned about this possibility.
A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Black life expectancy has fallen 2.7 years from pre-pandemic levels, compared with one year for the overall population – a stark reminder of the virus’s disproportionate impact on Black Americans.
The American dream of homeownership has not been dampened by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn it has caused.
In the fourth quarter of 2020 there were an estimated 82.8 million owner-occupied households in the United States, according to recently released Census Bureau data. The number of homeowners increased by an estimated 2.1 million over the prior year. Based on fourth-quarter nonseasonally adjusted data, this matches the largest prior net increase in homeowners that occurred during the housing boom between 2003 and 2004 (2.1 million).
The decennial redistricting process, in which states use fresh population data from the U.S. Census Bureau to draw new congressional and state legislative district lines, would normally have been well underway by now. But pandemic-related delays at the Census Bureau in collecting and analyzing the 2020 census data have left the process months behind schedule. That could create political turmoil at the state level – particularly in Virginia and New Jersey, which hold state elections this year.
Americans’ opinions of China have soured in recent years, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. But what are Americans thinking about when they say they have a negative view of China?
To find out, we asked members of our American Trends Panel to describe, in their own words, the first things that come to mind when they think about China. Then we analyzed the 2,010 responses we received. Many of these responses touched on multiple topics, so we coded the first five things that any individual mentioned.
Americans rarely brought up the Chinese people or the country’s long history and culture in their responses. Instead, they focused primarily on the Chinese government – including its policies or how it behaves internationally – as well as its economy.
U.S. political leaders have long spoken of America’s commitment to democracy as pivotal to its role in the world, whether it was Woodrow Wilson declaring in 1917 that the U.S. must enter World War I to make the world “safe for democracy,” or George W. Bush saying, on his reelection in 2004, “It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture.”
More recently, President Joe Biden told world leaders gathered virtually at the Munich Security Conference, “We must demonstrate that democracy can still deliver for our people in this changed world.”
But in recent decades, promoting democracy in other nations has not been a top priority for the American public. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in early February found that just 20% of U.S. adults cited this as a top foreign policy objective, putting it at the bottom of the list of 20 topics polled.
The swearing-in of Kamala Harris as the vice president of the United States marked several important “firsts”: She became the first female vice president, as well as the first Black person and first Asian American to hold that office. But her ascendance to the second-highest office in the land represented so much more. It held up a mirror to America, revealing how key demographic trends have reshaped the country.
Kamala Harris embodies several trends that have been unfolding gradually over recent decades. As a result, many Americans – not just women of color – can see themselves in her story.
Though primarily places of worship, Black churches have long played prominent roles in African American communities, offering services such as job training programs and insurance cooperatives, and many of their pastors have advocated for racial equality. Today, around three-quarters of Black adults say predominantly Black churches have done either “a great deal” (29%) or “some” (48%) to help Black people move toward equality in the United States, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
That is lower than the share of Black adults crediting civil rights organizations a great deal or some (89%) but higher than the share who credit the federal government (55%), predominantly Black Muslim organizations such as the Nation of Islam (54%), or predominantly White churches (38%).
The federal prison population, which declined for the first time in decades under President Barack Obama, fell further during the administration of President Donald Trump.
The number of federal prisoners sentenced to more than a year behind bars decreased by 5% (or 7,607 inmates) between 2017, Trump’s first year in office, and the end of 2019, the most recent year for which final data is available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Preliminary figures for 2020 show that the decline continued – and even accelerated – during Trump’s last full year in office, meaning that the overall reduction in inmates during his tenure will likely exceed 5% once final data is available. Part of the decrease in prisoners in 2020 may have been attributable to policy changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Obama made criminal justice issues a focus of his presidency and became the first president since Jimmy Carter to leave the White House with fewer inmates than when he arrived. Among other things, he oversaw a Justice Department initiative that emphasized lighter sentences for those convicted of lower-level crimes and used his executive clemency power more frequently than any modern president. The number of prisoners fell by 10% (or 14,988 inmates) during Obama’s tenure, the biggest decline in absolute numbers of any president on record.
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.