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Political Polarization in the American Public

June 13, 2014 Comments off

Political Polarization in the American Public
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in the last two decades. These trends manifest themselves in myriad ways, both in politics and in everyday life. And a new survey of 10,000 adults nationwide finds that these divisions are greatest among those who are the most engaged and active in the political process.

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For 2016 Hopefuls, Washington Experience Could Do More Harm than Good

May 19, 2014 Comments off

For 2016 Hopefuls, Washington Experience Could Do More Harm than Good
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

As the 2016 presidential campaign begins to take shape, Washington experience has become less of a potential asset for those seeking the White House.

A new national survey testing candidate traits finds that 30% would be less likely to support a candidate with “many years” of experience as an elected official in Washington, while 19% would be more likely to support such a candidate. About half (48%) say it would not matter if a candidate had long Washington experience.

By contrast, early in the 2008 presidential campaign, more than twice as many saw lengthy Washington experience as a positive than negative trait for a presidential candidate (35% more likely vs. 15% less likely).

America’s New Drug Policy Landscape; Two-Thirds Favor Treatment, Not Jail, for Use of Heroin, Cocaine

April 3, 2014 Comments off

America’s New Drug Policy Landscape; Two-Thirds Favor Treatment, Not Jail, for Use of Heroin, Cocaine
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

The public appears ready for a truce in the long-running war on drugs. A national survey by the Pew Research Center finds that 67% of Americans say that the government should focus more on providing treatment for those who use illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Just 26% think the government’s focus should be on prosecuting users of such hard drugs.

Support for a treatment-based approach to illegal drug use spans nearly all demographic groups. And while Republicans are less supportive of the treatment option than are Democrats or independents, about half of Republicans (51%) say the government should focus more on treatment than prosecution in dealing with illegal drug users.

As a growing number of states ease penalties for drug possession, the public expresses increasingly positive views of the move away from mandatory sentences for non-violent drug crimes. By nearly two-to-one (63% to 32%), more say it is a good thing than a bad thing that some states have moved away from mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenders. In 2001, Americans were evenly divided over the move by some states to abandon mandatory drug terms.

The survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 14-23 among 1,821 adults, finds that support for the legalization of marijuana use continues to increase. And fully 75% of the public –including majorities of those who favor and oppose the legal use of marijuana – think that the sale and use of marijuana will eventually be legal nationwide.

Deficit Reduction Declines as Policy Priority

January 27, 2014 Comments off

Deficit Reduction Declines as Policy Priority
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

For the first time since Barack Obama took office in 2009, deficit reduction has slipped as a policy priority among the public. Overall, 63% say reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority for Congress and the president this year, down from 72% a year ago. Most of the decline has come among Democrats: Only about half of Democrats – 49% – view deficit reduction as a top priority, down 18 points since last January.

Most See Inequality Growing, but Partisans Differ over Solutions

January 23, 2014 Comments off

Most See Inequality Growing, but Partisans Differ over Solutions
Source: Pew Research Center for the People and the Press

There is broad public agreement that economic inequality has grown over the past decade. But as President Obama prepares for Tuesday’s State of the Union, where he is expected to unveil proposals for dealing with inequality and poverty, there are wide partisan differences over how much the government should – and can – do to address these issues.

The new national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted Jan. 15-19 among 1,504 adults, finds that 65% believe the gap between the rich and everyone else has increased in the last 10 years. This view is shared by majorities across nearly all groups in the public, including 68% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans.

Yet there is a sharp disagreement over whether this gap needs government attention. Among Democrats, 90% say the government should do “a lot” or “some” to reduce the gap between the rich and everyone else, including 62% who say it should do a lot. But only half as many Republicans (45%) think the government should do something about this gap, with just 23% saying it should do a lot. Instead, nearly half of Republicans say the government should do “not much” (15%) or “nothing at all” (33%) about the wealth divide.

In Deficit Debate, Public Resists Cuts in Entitlements and Aid to Poor

December 23, 2013 Comments off

In Deficit Debate, Public Resists Cuts in Entitlements and Aid to Poor
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

As President Obama prepares to sign a bipartisan budget agreement that its proponents describe as a modest step toward addressing the deficit, the public shows little appetite for making some of the spending cuts often discussed as part of a broader “grand bargain” on the budget.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Dec. 3-8 among 2,001 adults, finds majorities say it is more important to maintain spending on Social Security and Medicare and programs to help the poor than to take steps to reduce the budget deficit. Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) say it is more important to maintain current Social Security and Medicare benefits than to reduce the deficit, while 59% prioritize keeping current levels of spending for programs that help the poor and needy over deficit reduction.

Public Sees U.S. Power Declining as Support for Global Engagement Slips

December 5, 2013 Comments off

Public Sees U.S. Power Declining as Support for Global Engagement Slips
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

Growing numbers of Americans believe that U.S. global power and prestige are in decline. And support for U.S. global engagement, already near a historic low, has fallen further. The public thinks that the nation does too much to solve world problems, and increasing percentages want the U.S. to “mind its own business internationally” and pay more attention to problems here at home.

Yet this reticence is not an expression of across-the-board isolationism. Even as doubts grow about the United States’ geopolitical role, most Americans say the benefits from U.S. participation in the global economy outweigh the risks. And support for closer trade and business ties with other nations stands at its highest point in more than a decade.

Public Agrees on Obesity’s Impact, Not Government’s Role

November 15, 2013 Comments off

Public Agrees on Obesity’s Impact, Not Government’s Role
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

Most Americans (69%) see obesity as a very serious public health problem, substantially more than the percentages viewing alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking and AIDS in the same terms. In addition, a broad majority believes that obesity is not just a problem that affects individuals: 63% say obesity has consequences for society beyond the personal impact on individuals. Just 31% say it impacts the individuals who are obese but not society more broadly.

Yet, the public has mixed opinions about what, if anything, the government should do about the issue. A 54% majority does not want the government to play a significant role in reducing obesity, while 42% say the government should play a significant role. And while some proposals for reducing obesity draw broad support, others are decidedly unpopular.

Continued Support for Keystone XL Pipeline

September 26, 2013 Comments off

Continued Support for Keystone XL Pipeline
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

Most Americans (65%) continue to favor building the Keystone XL pipeline, perhaps the most politically contentious energy issue in Barack Obama’s second term. Yet when it comes to another issue making headlines – a proposal to tighten greenhouse gas emissions from power plants – the public favors stricter limits, by exactly the same margin as the Keystone pipeline (65% to 30%).

Opinions on these two hotly debated issues underscore the complexity of public attitudes on U.S. energy policy. Support for increasing energy production from some traditional sources remains strong: 58% favor increased offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters.

Yet over the past year, opposition to the drilling process known as fracking has increased, as has opposition to nuclear power. Just 38% favor promoting the increased use of nuclear power while 58% are opposed, the highest level of opposition since the question was first asked in 2005.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Sept. 4-8 among 1,506 adults, finds that, as with other energy-related issues, there is a sharp partisan divide on the Keystone pipeline. But while an overwhelming majority of Republicans (82%) favor construction of the pipeline, so too do 64% of independents and about half of Democrats (51%).

President Obama’s decision about whether to go ahead with the pipeline is expected in the next few months. Environmental groups staunchly oppose the project, while GOP lawmakers are stepping up pressure on Obama to approve it.

Tea Party Increasingly Unhappy with GOP Leadership

September 11, 2013 Comments off

Tea Party Increasingly Unhappy with GOP Leadership
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

As lawmakers return for what promises to be a busy fall session, GOP congressional leaders face mounting disapproval among Tea Party Republicans. Just 27% of Republicans and GOP leaners who agree with the Tea Party approve of the job Republican leaders in Congress are doing, compared with 71% who disapprove.

The job rating of GOP leaders among Tea Party Republicans has fallen 15 points since February, from 42% to 27%. Disapproval has risen from 54% to 71% over this period. There has been no similar decline among Republicans who do not agree with the Tea Party. Currently, 42% of non-Tea Party Republicans and Republican leaners approve of how GOP leaders in Congress are handling their job, which is little changed over the past year.

This internal dissent contributes to the lower job ratings Republican leaders receive from the public when compared with Democratic congressional leaders. The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Sept. 4-8 among 1,506 adults, finds that just 24% of the public approves of Republican leaders’ job performance, while somewhat more (33%) approve of the job of Democratic congressional leaders.

Amid Criticism, Support for Media’s ‘Watchdog’ Role Stands Out

August 14, 2013 Comments off

Amid Criticism, Support for Media’s ‘Watchdog’ Role Stands Out
Source: pew Research Center for the People & the Press

Public evaluations of news organizations’ performance on key measures such as accuracy, fairness and independence remain mired near all-time lows. But there is a bright spot among these otherwise gloomy ratings: broad majorities continue to say the press acts as a watchdog by preventing political leaders from doing things that should not be done, a view that is as widely held today as at any point over the past three decades.

In the wake of revelations about government activities, including the NSA surveillance program and the IRS targeting of political groups, nearly seven-in-ten (68%) say press criticism of political leaders keeps them from doing things that should not be done, while just 21% say press criticism keeps leaders from doing their job. Support for the media’s watchdog role has risen 10 points since 2011 even as other press ratings have shown little sign of improvement.

About equal majorities of Republicans (69%), independents (69%) and Democrats (67%) view news organizations as a check on political leaders and there has been a significant rise in this view across nearly all demographic and political groups. Young people especially have become more likely to say news organizations keep political leaders from doing things that should not be done, a shift in opinion that has taken place concurrently with rising concerns about civil liberties.

Outside of its role as a watchdog, the press receives broadly negative ratings from the public on core performance measures. Two-thirds (67%) say that news reports are often inaccurate, and even greater percentages say that news organizations tend to favor one side (76%) and are often influenced by powerful people and organizations (75%). Ratings of news organizations have declined steadily since Pew Research first began tracking attitudes in 1985, and many current ratings stand near all-time lows reached in 2011.

Public’s Knowledge of Science and Technology

April 22, 2013 Comments off

Public’s Knowledge of Science and Technology

Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

The public’s knowledge of science and technology varies widely across a range of questions on current topics and basic scientific concepts, according to a new quiz by the Pew Research Center and Smithsonian magazine.

About eight-in-ten Americans (83%) identify ultraviolet as the type of radiation that sunscreen protects against. Nearly as many (77%) know that the main concern about the overuse of antibiotics is that it can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

However, only about half (51%) of the public knows that “fracking” is a process that extracts natural gas, not coal, diamonds or silicon from the earth.

Similarly, knowledge of basic scientific concepts differs greatly across questions. While most Americans (78%) know that the basic function of red blood cells is to carry oxygen to all parts of the body, just 20% could identify nitrogen as the gas that makes up most of the atmosphere.

State Governments Viewed Favorably as Federal Rating Hits New Low

April 17, 2013 Comments off

State Governments Viewed Favorably as Federal Rating Hits New Low

Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

Even as public views of the federal government in Washington have fallen to another new low, the public continues to see their state and local governments in a favorable light. Overall, 63% say they have a favorable opinion of their local government, virtually unchanged over recent years. And 57% express a favorable view of their state government – a five-point uptick from last year. By contrast, just 28% rate the federal government in Washington favorably. That is down five points from a year ago and the lowest percentage ever in a Pew Research Center survey.

The percentage of Democrats expressing a favorable opinion of the federal government has declined 10 points in the past year, from 51% to 41%. For the first time since Barack Obama became president, more Democrats say they have an unfavorable view of the federal government in Washington than a favorable view (51% unfavorable vs. 41% favorable). Favorable opinions of the federal government among Republicans, already quite low in 2012 (20% favorable), have fallen even further, to 13% currently.

A Third of Americans Say They Like Doing Their Income Taxes

April 12, 2013 Comments off

A Third of Americans Say They Like Doing Their Income Taxes

Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

As April 15 approaches, a majority of Americans (56%) have a negative reaction to doing their income taxes, with 26% saying they hate doing them. However, about a third (34%) say they either like (29%) or love (5%) doing their taxes.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted April 4-7 among 1,003 adults, finds that the expectation of getting a refund is cited most often for why people like doing their taxes, but it is not the only factor.

When asked why they like doing their income taxes, 29% say that they are getting a refund, while 17% say they just don’t mind it or they are good at it; 13% say doing their taxes gives them a sense of control, while the same percentage cites a feeling of obligation – that it is their duty to pay their fair share.

Among those who dislike or hate doing their taxes, most cite the hassles of the process or the amount of time it takes: 31% say it is complicated, requires too much paperwork or they are afraid of making mistakes, while 24% say it is inconvenient and time-consuming. A much smaller share (12%) says they dislike doing their taxes because of how the government uses tax money. Just 5% of those who dislike or hate doing their income taxes say it is because they pay too much in taxes.

Majority Now Supports Legalizing Marijuana

April 6, 2013 Comments off

Majority Now Supports Legalizing Marijuana
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

For the first time in more than four decades of polling on the issue, a majority of Americans favor legalizing the use of marijuana. A national survey finds that 52% say that the use of marijuana should be made legal while 45% say it should not.

Support for legalizing marijuana has risen 11 points since 2010. The change is even more dramatic since the late 1960s. A 1969 Gallup survey found that just 12% favored legalizing marijuana use, while 84% were opposed.

4-4-13 #2The survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted March 13-17 among 1,501 adults, finds that young people are the most supportive of marijuana legalization. Fully 65% of Millennials –born since 1980 and now between 18 and 32 – favor legalizing the use of marijuana, up from just 36% in 2008. Yet there also has been a striking change in long-term attitudes among older generations, particularly Baby Boomers.

Half (50%) of Boomers now favor legalizing marijuana, among the highest percentages ever. In 1978, 47% of Boomers favored legalizing marijuana, but support plummeted during the 1980s, reaching a low of 17% in 1990. Since 1994, however, the percentage of Boomers favoring marijuana legalization has doubled, from 24% to 50%.

Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, came of age in the 1990s when there was widespread opposition to legalizing marijuana. Support for marijuana legalization among Gen X also has risen dramatically – from just 28% in 1994 to 42% a decade later and 54% currently.

The Silent Generation continues to be less supportive of marijuana legalization than younger age cohorts. But the percentage of Silents who favor legalization has nearly doubled –from 17% to 32% – since 2002.

Growing Support for Gay Marriage: Changed Minds and Changing Demographics

March 21, 2013 Comments off

Growing Support for Gay Marriage: Changed Minds and Changing Demographics

Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

The rise in support for same-sex marriage over the past decade is among the largest changes in opinion on any policy issue over this time period. A new national survey finds that much of the shift is attributable to the arrival of a large cohort of young adults – the Millennial generation – who are far more open to gay rights than previous generations. Equally important, however, is that 14% of all Americans – and 28% of gay marriage supporters – say they have changed their minds on this issue in favor of gay marriage.

The long-term shift in the public’s views about same-sex marriage is unambiguous. Polling conducted in 2003 found most Americans (58%) opposed to allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, and just a third (33%) in favor. The new survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted March 13-17, 2013 among 1,501 adults nationwide, confirms that these figures have crossed, with 49% supporting same-sex marriage, and 44% opposed.

GOP Seen as Principled, But Out of Touch and Too Extreme

February 22, 2013 Comments off

GOP Seen as Principled, But Out of Touch and Too Extreme
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

At a time when the Republican Party’s image is at a historic low, 62% of the public says the GOP is out of touch with the American people, 56% think it is not open to change and 52% say the party is too extreme.

Opinions about the Democratic Party are mixed, but the party is viewed more positively than the GOP in every dimension tested except one. Somewhat more say the Republican Party than the Democratic Party has strong principles (63% vs. 57%).

What the Public Knows – In Pictures, Maps, Graphs and Symbols

February 19, 2013 Comments off

What the Public Knows – In Pictures, Maps, Graphs and Symbols

Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

The latest update of the Pew Research Center’s regular News IQ quiz uses a set of 13 pictures, maps, graphs and symbols to test knowledge of current affairs. (To take the quiz yourself before reading this report, click here.) At the high end, nearly nine-in-ten Americans (87%) are able to select the Star of David as the symbol of Judaism from a group of pictures of religious symbols. And when shown a picture of Twitter’s corporate logo, 79% correctly associate the logo with that company.

At the low end, just 43% are able to identify a picture of Elizabeth Warren’s from a group of four photographs of female politicians, among them Nancy Pelosi, Tammy Baldwin and Deb Fischer. And when presented with a map of the Middle East in which Syria is highlighted, only half are able to identify the nation correctly.

Most Approve of Ending Saturday Mail Delivery; Wide Racial Gap in Views of Postal Service Decision

February 15, 2013 Comments off

Most Approve of Ending Saturday Mail Delivery; Wide Racial Gap in Views of Postal Service Decision

Source: Pew Research Center for the People & The Press

A majority of Americans (54%) approve of the U.S. Postal Service’s recent decision to halt Saturday delivery of letters, while 32% disapprove of the decision. The planned end of Saturday mail delivery is a rare government decision that garners bipartisan support – 58% of independents approve of the action, as do 57% of Republicans and 51% of Democrats.

Most Americans say they have heard or read at least a little about the Postal Service’s announcement that they plan to stop Saturday delivery of letters to address budget shortfalls. Majorities of those who have heard a lot (67%) or a little (56%) about the action approve of it.

But those who have heard nothing at all about the decision – 16% of the public – disapprove of stopping Saturday mail delivery by more than two-to-one (60% disapprove vs. 25% approve).

The national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 7-10 among 1,004 adults, finds that blacks are the only major demographic group in which a majority (55%) opposes the Postal Service decision to halt Saturday delivery. Whites approve of the decision by more than two-to-one (61% to 26%)

Public Hearing Better News about Housing and Financial Markets

February 6, 2013 Comments off

Public Hearing Better News about Housing and Financial Markets

Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

As Barack Obama begins his second term in office, the public is hearing a mix of good and bad news about the economy, as it has for much of the past four years. Views of news about real estate values and financial markets have improved and are as positive as they have been in the last four years. But these relative bright spots are counterbalanced by persistently negative views of news about gas prices and prices for food and consumer goods.

For the first time, as many say they are hearing mostly good news (25%) as bad news (24%) about real estate values; the remainder (40%) says the news is mixed. In 2009, far more saw the news about real estate as bad than good and the balance worsened considerably in 2010 and 2011.

The latest survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 31-Feb. 3 among 1,000 adults, finds that perceptions of news about financial markets have become more positive since the end of last year. Nonetheless, more say the news about the financial markets is mostly bad (28%) than mostly good (18%); 44% say the news is a mix of good and bad. The job situation also is viewed less negatively: 42% say the news about jobs is mostly bad, the lowest percentage in nearly a year and far lower than the 71% who viewed job news negatively in June 2009.

By contrast, views of news about prices for food and consumer goods remain broadly negative and have shown no improvement over Obama’s first term. Half (50%) say they are hearing mostly bad news about consumer prices; just 7% say they are hearing mostly good news. In June 2009, shortly after Obama took office, impressions of news about prices were less negative (39% mostly bad news vs. 9% mostly good news).

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