A record number of votes – about 65 million – were cast via mail ballot (also called absentee voting) in the 2020 general election, and the outcome of the presidential race in several key states came down to them. Although former Vice President Joe Biden has been declared the winner over President Donald Trump, the final allotment of electoral votes may be determined by the remaining mail/absentee ballots, as well as provisional votes that were cast on Election Day and special absentee ballots submitted by military and overseas voters.
Final, certified counts from this election won’t be available for a few weeks or longer, depending on recounts and legal challenges. But we can get some sense of how many mail, provisional and military and overseas ballots will and won’t get counted – and why – by looking at the past two even-year elections.
Government restrictions on religion rose to a record high in 2018, while religion-related social hostilities fell slightly but remained near peak levels, according to Pew Research Center’s 11th annual study of restrictions on religion.
Restrictions by governments include official laws and actions that curtail religious beliefs and practices, while social hostilities encompass everything from religion-related armed conflict to harassment over clothing. The analysis covers policies that were in place and events that occurred in 198 countries and territories in 2018, the most recent year for which data was available.
Millions of Baby Boomers retire each year from the U.S. labor force. But in the past year the number of retired Boomers increased more than in prior years, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of monthly labor force data. The recent increase in the share of Boomers who are retired is more pronounced among Hispanic and Asian American Boomers and those residing in the Northeast.
In the third quarter of 2020, about 28.6 million Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – reported that they were out of the labor force due to retirement.
This is 3.2 million more Boomers than the 25.4 million who were retired in the same quarter of 2019. Until this year, the overall number of retired Boomers had been growing annually by about 2 million on average since 2011 (the year the oldest Boomer reached age 65), and the largest increase was 2.5 million between the third quarter of 2014 and 2015.
Even before all the ballots are tallied, Americans appear to have voted in the 2020 presidential election at their highest rate in 120 years. Democrat Joe Biden has amassed more than 74 million votes as of Nov. 6, while Republican Donald Trump has received nearly 70 million – already the most and second-most in U.S. history.
But if one early takeaway from the election is historic voter participation, another may be the continuing political polarization that has come to define the United States. Democrats and Republicans both could walk away from the election with cause for disappointment, and divided government in Washington is a distinct possibility.
It isn’t just Washington that will be divided. The elected officials who take the oath of office in January will be representing two broad coalitions of voters who are deeply distrustful of one another and who fundamentally disagree over policies, plans and even the very problems that face the country today.
As of Monday night, more than 100 million Americans had cast their ballots in the 2020 general election – by mailing them in, dropping them off or going to a designated early-voting location. That record number, already about three-quarters of the total ballots cast in 2016, all but guarantees that, for the first time, fewer than half of all votes will be cast on Election Day itself.
If early voting trends are any indication, a record number of Americans could vote in the 2020 presidential election. As of this writing, more than 100 million early votes have been cast by mail or in person – more than two-thirds of the total number of votes cast in 2016.
We won’t have anything like a definitive assessment of 2020 turnout rates for some time after Nov. 3. But in the 2016 presidential election, nearly 56% of the U.S. voting-age population cast a ballot. That represented a slight uptick from 2012 but was lower than in the record year of 2008, when turnout topped 58% of the voting-age population.
So how does voter turnout in the United States compare with turnout in other countries? That depends very much on which country you’re looking at and which measuring stick you use.
Political scientists often define turnout as votes cast divided by the number of eligible voters. But because eligible-voter estimates are not readily available for many countries, we’re basing our cross-national turnout comparisons on estimates of voting-age population (or VAP), which are more readily available, as well as on registered voters. (Read “How we did this” for details.)
Pope Francis made news recently by voicing his support for same-sex civil unions – legal arrangements that give gay and lesbian couples many of the same rights as married opposite-sex couples. The statement struck many observers as a shift for the Vatican – which in 2003 came out against any “legal recognition of homosexual unions” – even as Francis did not change his long-standing opposition to gay marriage.
Around the world, Catholics vary in their support for same-sex marriage and their acceptance of homosexuality in general, according to Pew Research Center surveys conducted in recent years. (The Center does not have recent survey data on views about civil unions.)
In the United States, about six-in-ten Catholics (61%) said in a 2019 survey that they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry. Same-sex marriage became legal across the U.S. following a Supreme Court ruling in 2015.
In Western Europe, large majorities of Catholics said in 2017 that they support legal same-sex marriage. That was the case in the Netherlands (92%), the United Kingdom (78%), France (74%) and Germany (70%).
Two-thirds of U.S. adults say they’ve seen the news sources they turn to most often present factual information that favors one side of an issue in coverage of the 2020 election, according to the survey, conducted Oct. 6 to 12 among 10,059 Americans – including 8,972 registered voters – as part of the Center’s American News Pathways project. More than half (56%) say their news sources have published breaking information before it was fully verified, and 37% say their sources have reported made-up news that is intended to mislead.
The findings come against a backdrop of broader concern about misinformation in the United States. In the same survey, 59% of Americans say made-up information that is intended to mislead causes a “great deal” of confusion about the 2020 presidential election. Many say the same about breaking news that is not fully verified (47%) or factual information presented to favor one side of an issue (42%).
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.