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Pew Research Center Studies Life During the Pandemic
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Posted On December 1, 2020
NewsBreaks often covers recent 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.

The following are some of the latest reports from each section. Please note that because circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic change so quickly, some of these statistics—which were accurate as of the date of the report—may have changed.

NewsBreaks’ previous roundups of Pew Research Center’s research:

October 2017

March 2018 

October 2018 

March 2019 

October 2019 

March 2020

U.S. Politics

The Nov. 20 report, “Sharp Divisions on Vote Counts, as Biden Gets High Marks for His Post-Election Conduct,” shares that voters for President Donald Trump are more skeptical that the vote counts were accurate than they were before the election. Just 59% of all voters say the election was “run and administered well,” and 94% of President-elect Joe Biden voters said so. Only 21% of Trump voters agreed. As for post-election conduct, 57% of all voters say Trump should end his legal challenges against the voting process, and 62% say Biden’s conduct has been “excellent or good”—with 68% of all voters saying Trump’s conduct has been “only fair or poor” (34% of Trump voters agree with this assessment of Trump’s behavior; however, 85% say he should continue his legal challenges).

Americans’ Views of Government: Low Trust, but Some Positive Performance Ratings,” from Sept. 14, shows that 20% of U.S. adults “trust the government in Washington to ‘do the right thing’ just about always or most of the time.” But the government does get credit for doing “a very good or somewhat good job” in staving off terrorism (72% say it does a good job), responding to natural disasters (62%), providing access to safe food and medicine (62%), strengthening the economy (54%), and maintaining infrastructure (53%). It needs work in managing the immigration system (34% say it does a good job), reducing poverty (36%), and facing threats to public health (42%).

The May 12 report, “Most Americans Say Federal Government Has Primary Responsibility for COVID-19 Testing,” reveals that 61% of Americans say it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure the availability of COVID-19 testing, while 37% say it is up to the state governments. Unsurprisingly, there’s a partisan divide: 78% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say it “primarily falls” to the federal government, and 57% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say it is “primarily the responsibility” of the state governments. One issue that’s not divided along party lines is the appreciation of healthcare workers: 88% of Americans, with “nearly identical majorities in both parties,” say that “hospitals and medical centers in their area have done an excellent or good job” in responding to the pandemic.

Media & News

Before Trump Tested Positive for Coronavirus, Republicans’ Attention to Pandemic Had Sharply Declined,” from Oct. 7, notes that when the corresponding survey was conducted (before President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis), 61% of U.S. adults said the country needed to do a better job controlling the pandemic, but four in 10 said the pandemic was “made into a bigger deal than it really is.” Republicans and Republican-leaners who cited Fox News and/or talk radio as their only major news sources were more likely to think the coronavirus isn’t such a big deal (although Pew Research Center cautions, “These patterns do not necessarily prove that Republicans are taking their cues directly from their news sources”). In late March, 57% of all survey respondents said they were following coronavirus news “very closely,” and by September, only 35% were doing so (44% of Democrats were following the news very closely in September, and 26% of Republicans were).

The Aug. 31 report, “Americans See Skepticism of News Media as Healthy, Say Public Trust in the Institution Can Improve,” finds that while many people “often express negative views toward journalists and news organizations,” some open-mindedness still exists. For example, 61% of Americans believe they are getting accurate news, but 69% think news organizations cover up their mistakes. Mistakes are attributed to various factors: 55% say they come from careless reporting, 44% say they come from a desire to mislead the public, and 53% blame the rapid pace of breaking news. Americans want more transparency, with 72% saying news organizations need to get better at explaining where their money comes from, and 60% saying they need to disclose conflicts of interest.

On July 30, “Americans Who Mainly Get Their News on Social Media Are Less Engaged, Less Knowledgeable,” showed that people who get their political news mostly from social media (18% of U.S. adults) differ from other news consumers in multiple ways. They tend to be younger, are not white, and have lower levels of education than consumers who use other platforms—and they pay less attention to the news in general. Only 8% followed election news “very closely,” while 37% of those who watch cable TV news and 33% of those who read print news did the same. Here’s how social media news consumers stack up when it comes to COVID-19 news: 23% follow it “very closely,” compared to cable TV viewers (50%), national network TV viewers (50%), users of news websites and apps (44%), and local TV viewers (32%). The report adds, “Even as Americans who primarily turn to social media for political news are less aware and knowledgeable about a wide range of events and issues in the news, they are more likely than other Americans to have heard about a number of false or unproven claims.” These include conspiracy theories about COVID-19.

Social Trends

Most Parents of K-12 Students Learning Online Worry About Them Falling Behind,” from Oct. 29, examines how parents of K–12 students feel about in-person versus online instruction. For example, 54% of parents whose children are getting only in-person instruction say they are “very satisfied” with how the school is handling it, while 30% of parents whose children are getting only online instruction say this; 27% of parents whose children are experiencing a mix of online and in-person instruction say this. A majority (70%) of parents say they or another adult is supplementing their children’s online or hybrid learning beyond what the school is doing with extra instruction or resources. In contrast, 52% of parents whose children are learning only in person are doing something extra. As far as protection against the coronavirus, 45% of parents say they are “very satisfied” with how the school is taking precautions, and 62% are “at least somewhat concerned” about exposure to the virus.

The Oct. 6 report, “Amid National Reckoning, Americans Divided on Whether Increased Focus on Race Will Lead to Major Policy Change,” finds that 48% of Americans say the recent focus on racism “will lead to major policy changes to address racial inequality,” and 51% say it won’t. Black Americans are most likely to say they have been paying “a lot of attention” to the issues of race and racial inequality, at 64% (59% are paying “more attention”), while about 40% of white, Hispanic, and Asian Americans have been paying “a lot of attention.” Black Americans are most likely to say that they’ve been educating themselves about the history of racial inequality in the U.S. and have been supporting minority-owned businesses. In all, 49% of Americans say that the U.S. “hasn’t gone far enough when it comes to Black people having equal rights” with white people. This splits by party: 78% of Democrats and Democrat-leaners say this, and 17% of Republicans and Republican-leaners say this.

On Sept. 24, “Economic Fallout From COVID-19 Continues To Hit Lower-Income Americans the Hardest” looked at financial hardships: 40% of U.S. adults “have had trouble paying their bills” since the pandemic started, about 30% “have dipped into savings or retirement accounts to make ends meet,” and about 16% “have borrowed money from friends or family or gotten food from a food bank.” These experiences are most common among lower-income households, people without a college degree, and Black and Hispanic Americans. A quarter of U.S. adults say they or someone in their household lost their job because of the pandemic, and of those who lost a job themselves, half are still unemployed. Lower-income adults are less likely than middle- and upper-income adults to be working after losing their jobs, at 43% versus 58%. And 32% of workers said they or someone in their household had to reduce their hours or received a pay cut at their existing job.

Many Black and Asian Americans Say They Have Experienced Discrimination Amid the COVID-19 Outbreak,” from July 1, shares that about 40% of Black and Asian adults have noticed that “people have acted as if they were uncomfortable around them because of their race or ethnicity since the beginning” of the pandemic. A similar percentage “worry that other people might be suspicious of them if they wear a mask when out in public,” and they are more likely to say they have been subjected to racist jokes or slurs. (Asian Americans are most likely to say this has happened since the pandemic started, at 31%.) However, 51% of Black Americans say they have been the recipient of support “because of their race or ethnicity” since the pandemic began, possibly because this survey was conducted soon after George Floyd’s murder by police officers. Here’s the population breakdown: Asian Americans are 6% of the U.S. population, Black Americans are 12%, and Hispanic Americans are 18%.

Religion

In 2018, Government Restrictions on Religion Reach Highest Level Globally in More Than a Decade,” from Nov. 10, studies government restrictions on religion, which Pew Research Center defines as “laws, policies and actions by officials that impinge on religious beliefs and practices.” The level of these restrictions reached an all-time high in 2018 (since the center’s first survey in 2007). In 2018, there were 56 countries with “high” or “very high” levels of restrictions, most of which are in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East-North Africa region.

On Oct. 8, Pew Research Center asked, “What Lessons Do Americans See for Humanity in the Pandemic?” The survey began with the questions, “Do you believe there is a lesson or a set of lessons for humankind to learn from the coronavirus outbreak? And if so, do you think these lessons were sent by God, or not?” The majority (86%) say there are indeed lessons, with 35% saying the lessons were sent by God, 37% saying they weren’t, 13% saying they don’t believe in God, and 13% saying there are no lessons to be learned. Then those who said yes to the first question were asked what those lessons are. The center collected more than 3,700 answers, which had common themes such as “remembering the importance of spending time with family and loved ones” and “the need for universal health care.”

The Aug. 7 report, “Americans Oppose Religious Exemptions From Coronavirus-Related Restrictions,” shows that 79% of Americans think “houses of worship should be required to follow the same rules about social distancing and large gatherings as other organizations or businesses in their local area.” About 75% of American Christians believe this, and among Evangelical Protestants, 62% do. Two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaners agree. Houses of worship seem to be complying: 6% of Americans say their house of worship is open with no restrictions, 55% say it is open on a modified basis, and 31% say it is closed altogether. However, 79% say their house of worship is streaming or recording its services for at-home viewing.

Internet & Tech

The Challenges of Contact Tracing as U.S. Battles COVID-19,” from Oct. 30, is based on a survey from July finding that Americans “have a variety of views that could complicate the ongoing efforts of public health authorities” combating COVID-19. It shows that 58% of U.S. adults would be “very or somewhat likely” to talk to public health officials who contacted them via phone or text message, and 77% would be “somewhat comfortable” telling them about places they’ve recently visited, although only 49% would be fine with sharing their phone’s location data. If a public health official recommended that they quarantine themselves for 14 days after contracting the coronavirus, 93% said they “definitely or probably” would comply.

On July 22, the report “Most Americans Say Social Media Companies Have Too Much Power, Influence in Politics” showed that 72% of U.S. adults say that social media companies have too much power and influence over the county’s politics. About half (47%) say that the major technology companies should be better regulated than they currently are, 39% think the current level of government regulation is fine, and 11% say the companies should be less regulated. As for Republicans and Republican-leaners, 82% believe the companies have too much power and influence, while 63% of Democrats and Democrat-leaners do.

The May 4 report, “How Americans See Digital Privacy Issues Amid the COVID-19 Outbreak,” provides 10 key takeaways from a survey on Americans’ views on privacy, personal data, and digital surveillance. They include the following:

  • Six-in-ten Americans say that if the government tracked people’s locations through their cellphone, it wouldn’t make much of a difference in limiting the spread of COVID-19. …
  • About half of Americans (52%) say it would be at least somewhat acceptable for the government to use people’s cellphones to track the location of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in order to understand how the virus may be spreading. …
  • In a June 2019 survey, 70% of Americans said their personal information was less secure than it was five years earlier. Just 6% of Americans said they felt their information was more secure than in the past, while 24% said their personal information was about as secure as it was five years earlier. …
  • About seven-in-ten Americans (72%) believe that all, almost all or most of what they do online or while using a cellphone is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms or other companies. … Close to half of Americans (47%) said the same about their online activities being tracked by the government.

Science

Science and Scientists Held in High Esteem Across Global Publics,” from Sept. 29 (although the survey was conducted before the COVID-19 outbreak became a pandemic), shares that “scientists and their research are widely viewed in a positive light across global publics, and large majorities believe government investments in scientific research yield benefits for society.” Although people are sometimes “ambivalent” about scientific developments such as AI and genetically modified foods, there is “high trust for scientists” in general. Majorities tend to view childhood vaccines positively, but “sizable minorities across global publics” are doubtful. The publics surveyed come from Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Russia.

The Sept. 17 report, “U.S. Public Now Divided Over Whether to Get COVID-19 Vaccine,” shows a drop in the amount of people willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In this survey, 51% of U.S. adults would “definitely or probably” get the vaccine, and 49% “definitely or probably” wouldn’t. In a May survey, 72% said they would “definitely or probably” get the vaccine. Current attitudes reflect that 77% of Americans think a vaccine will be approved “before its safety and effectiveness are fully understood.” Pew Research Center finds that the intention to get vaccinated has declined across the major political and demographic groups. By party: 58% of Democrats and Democrat-leaners would “probably or definitely” get the vaccine, and 44% of Republicans or Republican-leaners would. By race: 32% of Black adults would, 52% of white adults would, 56% of Hispanics would, and 72% of Asian Americans would.

Hispanics

On Oct. 2, “Most Cuban American Voters Identify as Republican in 2020” showed that 58% of Cuban registered voters affiliate with the Republican Party or lean Republican, and 38% do the same with the Democratic Party. Conversely, 65% of Hispanic voters who are not Cuban are Democrats or Democrat-leaners, and 32% are Republican or Republican-leaners. As of 2018, there were 1.4 million Cuban eligible voters (i.e., adult citizens) in the U.S. A majority (65%) lived in Florida. Voter turnout among Cuban Americans is one of the highest among Hispanic eligible voters, at 58% in 2016.

About One-in-Four U.S. Hispanics Have Heard of Latinx, but Just 3% Use It,” from Aug. 11, explores the gender-neutral, pan-ethnic label “Latinx” for Hispanic people, which is in use by a variety of outlets, including news and entertainment media, corporations, and universities—and was added to the dictionary in 2018. Based on a bilingual survey of U.S. self-identified Hispanic adults, just 23% have heard the term, and only 3% use it to describe themselves. Awareness is split generationally: 42% of Hispanics ages 18–29 have heard of it, versus 7% of ages 65 and older. And awareness depends on education level: 38% of Hispanic college graduates are familiar with the term, versus 14% of Hispanic adults with a high school diploma or less. More predominantly English-speaking or bilingual adults have heard of it (29%) than mainly Spanish-speaking adults (7%).

The report from Aug. 4, “Coronavirus Economic Downturn Has Hit Latinos Especially Hard,” states that the unemployment rate for U.S. Hispanics increased from 4.8% in February to 18.5% in April, then dropped to 14.5% in June. (Pew Research Center notes that per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the true rates were probably higher.) During the Great Recession, in January 2010, unemployment was measured at 13.9%. Hispanic women experienced more unemployment than men (5.5% in February to 20.5% in April versus 4.3% in February to 16.9% in April). In June, 70% of Hispanics said that “the worst of the problems” caused by the pandemic “are still to come.” In addition, 18% rate the country’s economic conditions as “excellent or good,” but 48% say the conditions will be better in a year.

Global

Majorities in the European Union Have Favorable Views of the Bloc,” from Nov, 17, shares results of a June–August survey of eight European Union (EU) member nations (so, before a second wave of COVID-19 cases hit many regions) showing that 61% of people think the EU did a good job of dealing with the pandemic. Majorities in every country surveyed approved of the EU’s response, with Germany and the Netherlands leading the level of praise, at 68% each. General ratings of the EU were steady or improved since last year. Even the U.K., which formally left the EU on Jan. 30, 2020, is at a historic high rate, with 60% of people holding positive views of the EU.

The Oct. 6 report, “Unfavorable Views of China Reach Historic Highs in Many Countries,” looks at 14 countries’ attitudes toward China—a majority in each country has an “unfavorable opinion.” For example, in Australia, 81% hold this view, and in the U.K., about 75% do. These percentages have increased since last year. Across the 14 countries, a median of 61% think China “has done a bad job” in dealing with the coronavirus. However, the U.S. fares worse, with a median of 84% in the 14 countries saying the U.S. has handled the pandemic poorly. There is a historic high in the lack of confidence in China’s President Xi Jinping (a median of 78% don’t think he would do the right thing in world affairs), matched only by President Donald Trump—for example, in Germany, 89% have no confidence in him.

International Cooperation Welcomed Across 14 Advanced Economies,” from Sept. 21, shows that across 14 countries surveyed, “many believe greater global cooperation could have reduced the human toll from COVID-19.” There is also “strong support for taking the interests of other countries into account even if this requires compromise.” People generally approve of the United Nations, especially young people and people who are college-educated. And a median of 63% across the countries are satisfied with how the World Health Organization has handled the pandemic.

On Aug. 27, “Most Approve of National Response to COVID-19 in 14 Advanced Economies” studied how people in North America, Europe, Australia, Japan, and South Korea feel their country has handled the pandemic. Based on a survey of 14 “advanced economies,” a median of 73% say their country “has done a good job” handling the spread of the coronavirus. A median of 46% feel an increased sense of national unity since before the pandemic, although 48% say divisions have increased. And a median of 58% say the pandemic has changed their lives “a great deal or fair amount.”

The Global Divide on Homosexuality Persists,” from June 25, explores how views of homosexuality are changing. Western Europe and the Americas are “generally more accepting” than Eastern Europe, Russia, Ukraine, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa, with the Asia-Pacific region generally split. Pew Research Center notes, “This is a function not only of economic development of nations, but also religious and political attitudes.” The center first began asking about homosexuality in 2002, and there has been an increase in acceptance since then in many nations. For example, in the U.S., 72% “say it should be accepted,” up from 49% in 2007. Between 2002 and 2019, there was a 21-point increase in acceptance in South Africa and a 19-point increase in South Korea. And, since 2014, there has been a 22-point increase in India. Gains were also made in Mexico and Japan, from about half of people accepting of homosexuality in 2002 and now about 70% doing so. In Kenya in 2002, only 1% were accepting, but in 2019, 14% were.


Brandi Scardilli is the editor of NewsBreaks and Information Today.

Email Brandi Scardilli

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