The 2016 presidential campaign is starting out with lower voter interest than at the same point in 2008. But there are already stark differences in how possible Democratic and Republican fields are shaping up.
While majorities say the Democratic Party is open and tolerant, the Republican Party runs even with them on the economy and immigration and holds double-digit leads over the Democrats on terrorism, foreign policy and taxes.
Women now make up 20% of Congress, a record high. But women have more representation in most countries' national legislatures.
More House Republicans in the new, 114th Congress identify as Catholic than in any other recent Congress, and they now outnumber Catholic Democrats in the House.
President Obama enters the seventh year of his presidency with a 47% approval rating, up five points since December. Meanwhile, the public’s views of the U.S. economy have steadily improved.
Almost one-in-five members of the House and Senate are a racial or ethnic minority, making the 114th Congress the most diverse in history. However, Congress remains disproportionately white when compared with the U.S. population, which has grown increasingly diverse in recent decades.
Some political observers predict that Obama will be using his veto pen a lot more in his last two years in office than he did in the first six. Recent history indicates that presidents do veto more bills when both houses of Congress are controlled by the opposing party.
Trade is shaping up as a major issue on the 2015 legislative agenda, with Congressional leaders and Obama suggesting bilateral cooperation on U.S. trade agendas. Indeed, a Pew Research Center survey suggests such bipartisan efforts also could find public support.
The new GOP-controlled Congress takes office at a time when the American public sees partisan rifts in the country getting worse.
More than nine-in-ten members of the newly elected 114th Congress are Christian — a significantly higher share than is seen in the general population. However, many other major religious groups are represented in the body, including Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and the unaffiliated.