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Pew Research Center Enters a New Decade
by
Posted On March 3, 2020
NewsBreaks often covers the latest surveys and reports from Pew Research Center, “a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.” Its website has eight topic sections, each of which showcases the latest research, which is collected in reports, fact sheets, or other formats that extrapolate respondents’ answers to cover the entire U.S. (or other) population. The reports have a summary page that includes the methodology for how the information was collected and a link to download and read the full report.

For NewsBreaks’ previous roundups of Pew’s research, click here (October 2017), here (March 2018), here (October 2018), here (March 2019), and here (October 2019). The following are some of the latest reports from each section.

U.S. Politics

A report from Feb. 13, 2020, “As Economic Concerns Recede, Environmental Protection Rises on the Public’s Policy Agenda,” shows that Americans’ policy priorities have changed recently: “For the first time in Pew Research Center surveys dating back nearly two decades, nearly as many Americans say protecting the environment should be a top policy priority (64%) as say this about strengthening the economy (67%).” Three years ago, 68% said jobs were a top priority, with 49% saying so today. Defending the U.S. against terrorism has been the top priority overall since 2002, at 74% this year. There is a partisan divide when it comes to climate change—“virtually all the increase in the share of Americans saying global climate change should be a top priority has come among Democrats” since 2017. This year, Democrats name protecting the environment (85%), reducing healthcare costs (80%), and improving the country’s educational system (80%) as top priorities. Republicans prioritize defense against terrorism (87%), strengthening the economy (74%), and immigration issues (74%).

A Feb. 7, 2020, report, “Views of Nation’s Economy Remain Positive, Sharply Divided by Partisanship,” finds that Americans’ “views of the nation’s economy remain more positive than at any point in the past two decades. In addition, more Americans say President Trump’s policies have made the economy better (44%) than worse (29%), while 26% say they have not had much effect.” As usual, there’s a partisan divide: 57% say the economy is “excellent” or “good”—81% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say so versus 39% of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents. Optimism that economic conditions would improve was relatively high during the Obama administration (surveyed in 2012); today, “29% of Americans say conditions will be better, 26% worse, while 45% say they will be about the same as now. In February 2012, 44% expected economic conditions to improve; just 10% said they would get worse, while 42% said they would be about the same as they were then.”

As Voting Begins, Democrats Are Upbeat About the 2020 Field, Divided in Their Preferences,” from Jan. 30, 2020, finds that “Democratic voters are highly engaged with the race for their party’s nomination, express positive views of the Democratic field and are united in opposition to Donald Trump.” The report is based on data from registered voters, with about half of the respondents identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic. Of those, 44% expect the Democratic nominee to win the presidency, 34% did not express an opinion, and 22% think the current president will be reelected. Here are the percentage breakdowns for support of each candidate who was in the race at the time: Joe Biden (26%), Bernie Sanders (21%), Elizabeth Warren (16%), Pete Buttigieg (7%), and Michael Bloomberg (5%).

Media & News

On Feb. 19, 2020, Pew released “Concern About Influence of Made-Up News on the Election Is Lowest Among Those Paying the Least Attention.” It finds that 82% of Americans “say they are either ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ concerned about the potential impact of made-up news on the 2020 presidential election. Nearly half (48%) place themselves in the highest category of being very concerned. … Concern is highest among people who follow political news most closely, older adults and those who display more knowledge about politics in general. The least concerned are those who don’t follow political news closely at all, people with the least knowledge about political affairs and the youngest adults.” Respondents’ knowledge was tested by completing a series of nine questions focused on politics and government.

A report from Jan. 24, 2020, “U.S. Media Polarization and the 2020 Election: A Nation Divided,” looks at where Republicans and Democrats place their trust: “in two nearly inverse news media environments.” A study from 2014 found that “Republicans have grown increasingly alienated from most of the more established sources, while Democrats’ confidence in them remains stable, and in some cases, has strengthened.” For this year’s study, Pew listed 30 different sources, including network television news, Rush Limbaugh, The New York Times, and the Huffington Post. Republicans distrusted 20 of the 30 sources (three of the trusted ones were Fox News and talk radio programs from Limbaugh and Sean Hannity). “Greater portions of Democrats express trust than express distrust in 22 of the 30 sources asked about. Only eight generate more distrust than trust—including Fox News, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.” In addition, “none of the 30 sources is trusted by more than 50% of all U.S. adults.”

Social Trends

Most Adults Aware of 2020 Census and Ready to Respond, but Don’t Know Key Details,” from Feb. 20, 2020, shows that many U.S. adults don’t know what the census asks or how to participate. “A majority incorrectly believes a citizenship question is on the questionnaire, and only about one-in-five know they will have the option of answering online,” although there is a high level of intention to participate. Two-thirds of adults say the census is important; 81% say they or someone in their household will participate.

On Jan. 30, 2020, Pew released “Women Make Gains in the Workplace Amid a Rising Demand for Skilled Workers.” It shares that “women [have] been entering the labor force in greater numbers than men since 1980, [and] they have made their presence felt more strongly in jobs with the greatest reliance on” negotiation, persuasion, and other social skills, as well as fundamental skills such as critical thinking and writing. Women are in the majority (52%; up from about 40% in 1980) in social and fundamental skills-based jobs, including those in the legal, teaching, and counseling fields. Jobs that rely on analytical skills, including those in accounting and dentistry, have a greater share of women than previously too—42%, up from 27% in 1980.

A report from Jan. 9, 2020, is “Most Americans Say There Is Too Much Economic Inequality in the U.S., but Fewer Than Half Call It a Top Priority.” “About six-in-ten U.S. adults say there’s too much economic inequality in the country these days, and among that group, most say addressing it requires significant changes to the country’s economic system”; however, it doesn’t actually rank highly on their list of priorities—only 40% say reducing inequality should be a top priority for the federal government. Besides a partisan divide (78% of Democrats versus 41% of Republicans say the U.S. has too much economic inequality), opinions across income levels vary: 52% of lower-income Americans think inequality is a top priority, with 39% of those with middle incomes and 36% of those with upper incomes saying the same. And 85% of upper-income adults say that although there’s too much inequality, some amount of it is acceptable (the percentages drop to 72% of those with middle incomes and 59% of those with lower incomes). Democrats are more likely to attribute inequality to structural factors, such as the tax and education systems, than Republicans, while Republicans are more likely to blame people’s life choices and the fact that some people work harder than others.

Religion

What Americans Know About the Holocaust,” from Jan. 22, 2020, shows that “[m]ost U.S. adults know what the Holocaust was and approximately when it happened, but fewer than half can correctly answer multiple-choice questions about the number of Jews who were murdered or the way Adolf Hitler came to power”—begging the question, “Are those who underestimate the death toll simply uninformed, or are they Holocaust deniers … ?” According to Pew’s survey, the underestimation doesn’t seem to stem from anti-Semitism. “That said, respondents who get more questions right also tend to express warmer feelings toward Jews. For example, non-Jews who correctly answer at least three of the four multiple-choice questions about the Holocaust rate Jews at a relatively warm 67 degrees on the [survey’s] feeling thermometer, on average. By comparison, non-Jews who correctly answer one question or less (including those who get none right) rate their feelings toward Jews at 58 degrees, on average.” In addition, “When asked to describe in their own words what the Holocaust was, more than eight-in-ten Americans mention the attempted annihilation of the Jewish people or other related topics, such as concentration or death camps, Hitler, or the Nazis. Seven-in-ten know that the Holocaust happened between 1930 and 1950. And close to two-thirds know that Nazi-created ghettos were parts of a city or town where Jews were forced to live.” A separate survey of teens (ages 13–17) that used the same multiple-choice questions shows that “the teens display lower levels of knowledge about the Holocaust than their elders do. Like the adults, however, teens fare best on the questions about when the Holocaust occurred and what ghettos were. About half or more of teens answer those questions correctly. By comparison, 38% of teens know that approximately 6 million Jews perished in the Holocaust, and just one-third know that Hitler came to power through a democratic process.”

Internet & Tech

A Feb. 21, 2020, report, “Many Tech Experts Say Digital Disruption Will Hurt Democracy,” is a roundup of responses from technology experts who provided “their insights about the potential future effects of people’s use of technology on democracy.” Nearly 1,000 innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers, and activists answered the question, “Between now and 2030, how will use of technology by citizens, civil society groups and governments affect core aspects of democracy and democratic representation? Will they mostly weaken core aspects of democracy and democratic representation, mostly strengthen core aspects of democracy and democratic representation or not much change in core aspects of democracy and democratic representation?” Of the respondents, 49% say “mostly weaken,” 33% say “mostly strengthen,” and 18% say “no significant change.” Pew notes, “The logic in some expert answers goes this way: The misuse of digital technology to manipulate and weaponize facts affects people’s trust in institutions and each other. That ebbing of trust affects people’s views about whether democratic processes and institutions designed to empower citizens are working.”

The Virtues and Downsides of Online Dating,” from Feb. 6, 2020, shows that 30% of U.S. adults have ever used an online dating platform (up from 11% in 2013)—23% of them have gone on a date with someone they first met via online dating, and 12% of them “have married or been in a committed relationship with someone they first met through a dating site or app” (up from 3% in 2013). Online dating is most popular with younger adults and members of the LGBT+ community: 48% of 18–29-year-olds and 55% of LGBT+ adults have ever used an app or site, and about 20% in each group have gotten married or been in a committed relationship with someone thanks to online dating. “On a broad level, online dating users are more likely to describe their overall experience using these platforms in positive rather than negative terms. … [However, about] seven-in-ten online daters believe it is very common for those who use these platforms to lie to try to appear more desirable. And by a wide margin, Americans who have used a dating site or app in the past year say the experience left them feeling more frustrated (45%) than hopeful (28%).”

Science

As of this writing, Pew hasn’t released any 2020-dated reports in the Science section yet. Its most recent one, from Nov. 25, 2019, is “U.S. Public Views on Climate and Energy.” It notes, “Majorities of Americans say the federal government is doing too little for key aspects of the environment, from protecting water [68%] or air [67%] quality to reducing the effects of climate change [67%]. And most [77%] believe the United States should focus on developing alternative sources of energy over expansion of fossil fuel sources. … A majority of U.S. adults say they are taking at least some specific action in their daily lives to protect the environment,” but as usual, there is a partisan divide over the causes of climate change and how government policies should address it.

Hispanics

Where Latinos Have the Most Eligible Voters in the 2020 Election,” from Jan. 31, 2020, shares that 32 million Latinos are projected to be eligible to vote in the presidential election this year—making them 13.3% of all eligible voters. (About 60 million Latinos live in the U.S.) As for affiliation, 62% of Latino registered voters are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic party, and 34% are Republicans or lean toward the Republican party. Two-thirds of eligible Latino voters live in five states: California (7.9 million), Texas (5.6 million), Florida (3.1 million), New York (2.0 million), and Arizona (1.2 million). Latinos are the highest percentage of eligible voters in New Mexico, at 43%, and in Maine, 71% of Latinos are eligible to vote, the highest percentage in the country (Tennessee has the lowest percentage, at 33%).

A report from Jan. 17, 2020, “Latino Democratic Voters Place High Importance on 2020 Presidential Election,” finds that 54% of Latino registered voters who are Democrats or Democrat-leaning have a “good” impression of the Democratic candidates. It “really matters” who is elected the next president, according to 87% of these voters, and 68% of Latino registered voters disapprove of the current president (23% who approve of him do so “strongly”). Of Democrat or Democrat-leaning Latino voters, 53% “say the Democratic Party has more concern for Latinos than the Republican Party, while 31% say there is no difference between the two parties.”

Global

On Feb. 9, 2020, Pew published “NATO Seen Favorably Across Member States.” It notes, “NATO is generally seen in a positive light across publics within the alliance, despite lingering tensions between the leaders of individual member countries. A median of 53% across 16 member countries surveyed have a favorable view of the organization, with only 27% expressing a negative view.” Poland has the highest positive NATO rating, at 82%; it’s lowest in Turkey, at 21%. (The percentage for the U.S. is 52%.) “And in the three nonmember states surveyed, Sweden and Ukraine see the alliance positively (63% and 53%, respectively), but only 16% of Russians say the same.”

Trump Ratings Remain Low Around Globe, While Views of U.S. Stay Mostly Favorable,” from Jan. 8, 2020, shares, “As has been the case throughout his presidency, U.S. President Donald Trump receives largely negative reviews from publics around the world. Across [33] countries surveyed by Pew Research Center, a median of 64% say they do not have confidence in Trump to do the right thing in world affairs, while just 29% express confidence in the American leader.” Disapproval is common in Western Europe, where 75% “lack confidence in Trump in Germany, Sweden, France, Spain and the Netherlands.” In Mexico, that percentage jumps to 89%. However, six countries have half or more percentages voicing confidence in how he handles world affairs, including Israel (70%) and Ukraine (46%). “In 18 nations, those who place themselves on the right side of the ideological spectrum express more confidence in the U.S. president. For example, more than eight-in-ten Israelis on the ideological right have confidence in Trump, compared with just 37% of those on the left. Only 14% of Australians from the left give Trump positive marks, compared with a 55% majority among people from the right.” In addition, across the 33 countries, a median of 54% have a “favorable” opinion of the U.S., and 38% have an “unfavorable” opinion.


Brandi Scardilli is the editor of NewsBreaks and Information Today.

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