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Pew Research Center Updates From Another Pandemic Year
by
Posted On December 7, 2021
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 the world.” Its website has 12 topic sections, each showcasing 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 2021. Not every topic section is represented; some reports overlap topics.

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

October 2017 March 2018 | October 2018 | March 2019 | October 2019 | March 2020 | December 2020 | June 2021

Politics & Policy

On Nov. 23, “Republicans and Democrats Alike Say It’s Stressful to Talk Politics With People Who Disagree” states that 59% of U.S. adults find these disagreements “stressful and frustrating.” Broken down by party, 58% of Republicans and Republican-leaners agree that the conversations are stressful, while 60% of Democrats and Democrat-leaners say the same. White adults find them the most stressful, at 65%. The percentages for Black adults are at 43%, Hispanic adults are at 47%, and Asian adults are at 53%. By age, those younger than 50 are a little less likely to say the conversations are stressful than adults 50 and older (57% versus 61%).

Both Republicans and Democrats Prioritize Family, But They Differ Over Other Sources of Meaning in Life,” from Nov. 22, sums up a study that asked U.S. adults, “What about your life do you currently find meaningful, fulfilling or satisfying? What keeps you going and why?” The researchers grouped the answers into the most commonly mentioned categories, including family, friends, career, faith, freedom, and health. Republicans and Republican-leaners often used words such as “God,” “country,” “Jesus,” and “religion,” more so than other parties. Democrats and Democrat-leaners often mentioned “reading” (and other hobbies), “nature,” “health,” and “new” (as in either new experiences or learning something new).

The Sept. 23 report, “Biden Loses Ground With the Public on Issues, Personal Traits and Job Approval,” shows that President Joe Biden’s approval rating dropped from 55% in July to 44% in September. The decline in approval comes from both parties, although when looked at separately, 75% of Democrats and Democrat-leaners approve of his job performance (down from 88% in July), and 9% of Republicans and Republican-leaners approve (down from 17% in July). About half of survey respondents believe he is doing a good job handling the pandemic and the economy, while only 34% think he can unify the country. When it comes to his morals, 60% say he stands up for what he believes in (down from 66% in July), and 54% say he cares about ordinary people (down from 62% in July).

International Affairs

The Nov. 1 report shows how people in other countries view the U.S. “What People Around the World Like—And Dislike—About American Society and Politics” highlights the results of a study of 17 advanced economies (including the U.S.), with positive elements, including the country’s technology (a median of 72% says it is “the best or above average”) and entertainment (a median of 71% says it is “the best or above average”). A median of 45% across 16 countries describes the U.S. military as “above average” and a median of 26% says it is “the best.” U.S. universities are seen as “above average” by a median of 43% and as “the best” by a median of 16%. There is a mixture of opinions from the 16 countries on whether U.S. living standards are good or bad. In Sweden, the Netherlands, and Australia, nearly half think the living standards are “below average or the worst.” A median of 48% thinks the U.S. healthcare system is “below average,” and a median of 18% says it is “the worst among developed nations.” Countries that tended to give the U.S. low reviews all around are Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden. And majorities say racial and ethnic discrimination is “a very serious problem” in the U.S.

Citizens in Advanced Economies Want Significant Changes to Their Political Systems,” from Oct. 21, shows that across 17 advanced economies, a median of 56% think “their political system needs major changes or needs to be completely reformed.” This opinion was even higher in certain countries, with about two-thirds of respondents from Italy, Spain, the U.S., South Korea, Greece, France, Belgium, and Japan saying this. Across all 17 countries, fewer than three in 10 say their political system “should not be changed at all.” In eight of the 17 countries, about half or more say that although their system needs changes or an overhaul, they have “little or no confidence the system can be changed effectively” (emphasis in original). In six countries, “desire for reform is relatively low”: Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Singapore, and New Zealand.

Another report that looks at 17 advanced economies is “Diversity and Division in Advanced Economies,” from Oct. 13. Wide majorities in most of the responding countries say that having people from diverse backgrounds improves their society. Majorities also say that their societies have issues with racial or ethnic discrimination. Three-quarters or more say discrimination is “at least a somewhat serious problem” in Italy, France, Sweden, the U.S., and Germany. (The U.S. has the largest share of people saying there is a problem.) In most countries, more people cite political divisions as a source of conflict than racial or ethnic background. In the U.S. and South Korea, 90% say there are “strong conflicts” between those of different political parties, while about two-thirds say so in Taiwan, France, and Italy.

Race & Ethnicity

In “Majority of Latinos Say Skin Color Impacts Opportunity in America and Shapes Daily Life,” from Nov. 4, darker skin is said to inspire more discrimination—57% of Hispanic adults say it “shapes their daily life experiences a lot or some”—and cause less of an “ability to get ahead,” according to 62% of Hispanic adults. Pew Research Center defines colorism as “a form of discrimination based on skin color, usually, though not always, favoring lighter skin color over darker skin color within a racial or ethnic group. While it can be tied to racism, it is not necessarily the same.” Colorism can occur within Hispanic communities as much as it can against Hispanics by non-Hispanics.

Oct. 19’s report, “Across Religious Groups, a Majority of Black Americans Say Opposing Racism Is an Essential Part of Their Faith,” asserts that “Black houses of worship have often been the foundation from which public battles for freedom and racial equality have been waged.” Aligning with that is the finding that 75% of Black adults say “opposing racism is essential to their faith or sense of morality,” no matter their faith tradition—Protestant, Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, Orthodox Christian, etc. In addition, 82% of Black non-Christians—Muslims, adherents to traditional African or Afro-Caribbean religions, and others—say the same, as do 71% of Black adults who are unaffiliated with a religion.

The Sept. 27 report, “Support for Black Lives Matter Declined After George Floyd Protests, but Has Remained Unchanged Since,” shows that support for Black Lives Matter (BLM) is stable: 55% of U.S. adults are supportive of the movement, a percentage that hasn’t changed from September 2020. In June 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, two-thirds of U.S. adults had expressed support for BLM. The movement is supported by 83% of Black adults, 68% of Asian adults, 60% of Hispanic adults, and 47% of white adults. As usual, there’s a difference along party lines: 85% of Democrats and Democrat-leaners are supportive, and 19% of Republicans and Republican-leaners are supportive. Adults younger than 30 are more supportive than older adults (67% versus 46% of those 65 and older) and those who have higher levels of education are more likely to be supportive (64% of those with postgraduate degrees versus 50% of those with only a high school education).

Religion

The Nov. 15 report is “41 Countries Ban Religion-Related Groups; Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baha’is Among the Most Commonly Targeted.” It finds that in 2019, 41 countries banned at least one religious group. The region with the highest share of countries with bans (11 out of 20 countries) was the Middle East-North Africa. Asia and the Pacific had the highest number of countries with bans (17 out of 50 countries). In Sub-Saharan Africa, eight of the 48 countries had bans, and in Europe, three of the 45 countries had bans. The Americas had two of the 35 countries with bans. Three most commonly banned groups are Jehovah’s Witnesses (who identify as Christian), Baha’is (who came from Iran originally), and Ahmadis (who came from India originally and get some of their tenets from Islamic teachings).

Globally, Social Hostilities Related to Religion Decline in 2019, While Government Restrictions Remain at Highest Levels,” from Sept. 30, stems from Pew Research Center’s 12th annual study of global restrictions on religion. In 2019, 43 countries had “high” or “very high” levels of social hostilities, which was a decrease from 2018 (53 countries) and 2012 (a high of 65 countries). Reduced religion-related terrorism (down to 49 countries in 2019, with a high of 82 countries in 2014) is a factor that explains the decrease in social hostilities. Religion-related terrorism includes deaths, physical abuse, displacement, detentions, property destruction, and terrorist fundraising and recruitment.

The Sept. 1 report, “Muslims Are a Growing Presence in U.S., but Still Face Negative Views From the Public,” shares that in 2015, Pew Research Center projected that there would be 3.85 million Muslims in the U.S. by 2020, accounting for 1.1% of the population. In 2020, it found that the U.S. had 2,769 mosques. The current Congress has three Muslim members: Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). In 2017, 48% of Muslim adults said that in the past year, they had experienced some form of discrimination because of their religion. A majority of U.S. adults (53%) don’t know anyone who is Muslim, and 52% say they don’t know much, or know nothing at all, about Islam. Those who are not Muslim but know someone who is are more likely than others to have a positive view of Muslims.

Gender & LGBT

What’s Behind the Growing Gap Between Men and Women in College Completion?” was published on Nov. 8. It shares that today, young women are more likely to be enrolled in college and they are more likely to have a college degree. Overall, 62% of U.S. adults ages 25 and older don’t have a 4-year college degree. The reasons vary: 42% say they can’t afford it, 36% say they needed to work to help support their family, 29% say they didn’t want it, and 23% say their chosen career doesn’t warrant it. Men tend to say they aren’t interested more often than women: 34% said they didn’t get a degree because they didn’t want to, versus 25% of women saying this. Men are also more likely to say they don’t need a degree, with 26% of men saying this, versus 20% of women. Women are more likely not to get a degree because they can’t afford it (44% of women versus 39% of men). But needing to work to provide family support was an equally likely reason for both genders.

The July 27 report, “Rising Shares of U.S. Adults Know Someone Who Is Transgender or Goes by Gender-Neutral Pronouns,” shows that 42% of U.S. adults personally know someone who is transgender, up from 37% in 2017, and 26% know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns, up from 18% in 2018. Since 2018, the percentage of people who would be “very or somewhat comfortable” using a gender-neutral pronoun to refer to someone has remained static, at 50%. The percentage of people who would be “very or somewhat uncomfortable” doing this also didn’t change, staying at 48%. Since 2017, attitudes toward gender also remained unchanged: 56% of U.S. adults say that whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by the sex assigned at birth, and 41% say a person’s gender can be different from the sex assigned at birth.

The report from July 7, “On Some Demographic Measures, People in Same-Sex Marriages Differ From Those in Opposite-Sex Marriages,” says that per the Census Bureau, there were 568,000 same-sex married couples in the U.S. in 2019. Pew Research Center discovered that people in same-sex marriages tend to have different demographic profiles from people in “opposite-sex marriages.” Men in same-sex marriages are shown to have higher levels of education and higher annual incomes than men in opposite-sex marriages. Women in same-sex marriages are slightly more likely than those in opposite-sex marriages to have a bachelor’s (or higher) degree and make slightly higher incomes. The racial and ethnic backgrounds of men in same-sex marriages don’t really differ from those of men in opposite-sex marriages, but women in same-sex marriages are more likely to be non-Hispanic and white than women in opposite-sex marriages. Men and women in same-sex marriages are more likely than people in opposite-sex marriages to be married to a person of a different race or ethnicity.

Family & Relationships

Growing Share of Childless Adults in U.S. Don’t Expect to Ever Have Children,” from Nov. 19, reports that 44% of nonparents ages 18–49 say it’s “not too or not at all likely” that they’ll have children, an increase from the 37% who said so in 2018. A percentage that hasn’t changed since 2018 is that 74% of adults younger than 50 who are already parents say they probably won’t have more children. As for reasons not to have children, 56% of nonparents younger than 50 say “they just don’t want to,” while 19% cite medical reasons, 17% cite financial reasons, and 15% say it’s because they don’t have a partner. The state of the world is a reason for 9% of nonparents, with 5% saying it’s because of environmental reasons such as climate change.

A report from Oct. 5, “Rising Share of U.S. Adults Are Living Without a Spouse or Partner,” notes that as of 2019, 38% of adults ages 25–54 were unpartnered (i.e., not married or cohabitating with a romantic partner, but could be separated, divorced, or widowed), which is an increase from 29% in 1990. Men are more likely than women to be unpartnered. Pew Research Center asserts that all of that growth since 1990 comes from adults who have never been married—the percentage rose from 17% of adults in 1990 to 33% in 2019. Unpartnered adults generally have different or worse economic and social status outcomes than partnered adults: lower incomes, lower educational attainment, etc.

Economy & Work

According to “Inflation Has Risen Around the World, but the U.S. Has Seen One of the Biggest Increases,” from Nov. 24, the annual rate of inflation in the U.S. was at 6.2% as of October 2021, which is the highest percentage in more than 3 decades, per the Consumer Price Index. Pew Research Center studied 46 nations and found that the Q3 2021 inflation rate was higher in 39 of them than in Q3 2019. In 16 countries, including the U.S., the inflation rate was more than 2 percentage points higher. Brazil and Turkey were the only countries to have higher inflation rates than the U.S.

Amid the Pandemic, a Rising Share of Older U.S. Adults Are Now Retired,” from Nov. 4, shows that as of Q3 2021, 50.3% of U.S. adults ages 55 and older were retired from the labor force. This is up from Q3 2019, when 48.1% said they were retired. During the last major economic shift, the Great Recession, retirement rates went down, but during the pandemic, house prices have been on the rise and the stock market has hit record highs. Pew Research Center asserts, “The retirement uptick among older Americans is important because, until the pandemic arrived, adults ages 55 and older were the only working age population since 2000 to increase their labor force participation.” (It went up from 32% in 2000 to 40% in 2019.) The Bureau of Labor Statistics published projections suggesting that the increase in retirement during the pandemic will be a temporary change.

The Nov. 3 report, “The Self-Employed Are Back at Work in Pre-COVID-19 Numbers, But Their Businesses Have Smaller Payrolls,” looks at the 16 million workers in the U.S. who are self-employed. It notes that recovery from the pandemic has been stronger for self-employed workers than those who are not, but hiring rates have fallen for self-employed businesses. Splitting the analysis between men and women, in Q2 2019, 5.2 million women were self-employed and working, but in Q2 2020, 4.4 million were. In 2019, 9.6 million men were self-employed and working, down to 8.2 million in 2020. But by Q2 2021, there were 5.4 million self-employed women and 9.5 million self-employed men, showing that the situation has made a full recovery. Self-employed workers had 31.4 million employees on their payrolls as of 2019, but the number fell to 28.3 million in 2021.

Science

67% of Americans Perceive a Rise in Extreme Weather, but Partisans Differ Over Government Efforts to Address It,” from Oct. 14, looks at attitudes toward climate change, with 46% of U.S. adults saying that their area has had an extreme weather event in the past 12 months. (The survey was conducted in September 2021.) Here’s how it breaks down by region: 73% of U.S. adults in the West South Central census division say they’ve experienced extreme weather, 59% in the Mid-Atlantic say the same, 34% in the South Atlantic do, and 31% in the East North Central do. Taking all regions into account, 85% of Democrats and Democrat-leaners say extreme weather is happening more now than in the past, but 44% of Republicans and Republican-leaners say the same. Overall, 62% of U.S. adults think the government “will not go far enough” when limiting new construction in areas at high risk of major storms, floods, and wildfires.

The Sept. 15 report, “Majority in U.S. Says Public Health Benefits of COVID-19 Restrictions Worth the Costs, Even as Large Shares Also See Downsides,” takes a measure of attitudes toward the pandemic: 54% of U.S. adults believe the pandemic will still get worse before it gets better, and 62% say that the benefits of COVID-19 restrictions have been worth the costs, although “[o]verwhelming majorities” acknowledge the way the restrictions have hurt businesses and the economy. A national survey of 10,300-plus U.S. adults finds that 73% have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Small majorities of younger adults, those with lower family incomes, and residents of rural areas have received a vaccine. Black adults are about as likely as white adults to be vaccinated, but there’s a contrast by party: 86% of Democrats and Democrat-leaners have received at least one dose, compared to 60% of Republicans and Republican-leaners.

On July 23, the report shared climate change policy views: “On Climate Change, Republicans Are Open to Some Policy Approaches, Even as They Assign the Issue Low Priority.” Only 10% of Republicans and Republican-leaners call climate change “a top personal concern” versus 49% of Democrats and Democrat-leaners. Of Republicans, 17% say human activities contribute “a great deal” (emphasis in original) to climate change, 42% say human activities contribute “some” (emphasis in original) to climate change, 28% say human activities contribute “not too much,” and 12% say human activities don’t contribute at all. Pew Research Center states, “Amid warnings from scientists and climate activists about climate impacts, there has been little increase in the share of Republicans who see climate change as a threat to the country over the last decade, in contrast to rising levels of concern among Democrats.” Here’s what Republicans support: 88% think planting more trees to absorb carbon emissions is a good idea, 73% believe in offering a tax credit to encourage businesses to deal with carbon emissions, and about half or more favor more restrictions on power plant emissions, taxing corporations based on their carbon emissions, and better fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks.

Internet & Technology

The Behaviors and Attitudes of U.S. Adults on Twitter,” from Nov. 15, reveals that one-quarter of U.S. adults use Twitter. Pew Research Center’s study of Twitter users reveals that 46% think the site increased their understanding of current events in the past year, and 30% say it makes them feel more politically engaged—but 33% say they see a lot of misleading or inaccurate information on Twitter, with 53% saying this is “a major problem” for Twitter. The most active 25% of users produced 97% of all tweets from survey respondents.

The Nov. 11 report, “16% of Americans Say They Have Ever Invested in, Traded or Used Cryptocurrency,” shows that although a minority of U.S. adults have personally dealt with cryptocurrencies, 86% have heard “at least a little” about them. Only 13% have heard “nothing at all.” Men are more likely to have encountered them—22% of men versus 10% of women—and younger men have the most experience, with 43% of men ages 18–29 saying they have invested in, traded, or used one of the cryptocurrencies. Asian, Black, and Hispanic adults are more likely than white adults to have invested in, traded, or used a cryptocurrency, but there aren’t statistically significant differences in experience for various household income levels.

How Americans Feel About ‘Cancel Culture’ and Offensive Speech in 6 Charts,” from Aug. 17, offers six takeaways:

  1. In a September 2020 survey, 44% of Americans said they’d heard at least a fair amount about the phrase ‘cancel culture,’ including 22% who had heard a great deal about it.
  2. Familiarity with the term cancel culture varied by age, gender and education level, but not political party affiliation. …
  3. Americans were most likely to mention accountability when describing what the phrase cancel culture means to them.
  4. In the September 2020 survey, Americans said they believed calling out others on social media is more likely to hold people accountable than punish people who don’t deserve it. 
  5. … 55% of Americans said many people take offensive content they see online too seriously, while a smaller share (42%) said offensive content online is too often excused as not a big deal.
  6. In a four-country survey conducted in the fall of 2020, Americans were the most likely to say that people today are too easily offended.

News Habits & Media

A report from Sept. 20, “News Consumption Across Social Media in 2021,” shows that 48% of U.S. adults get news from social media “often” or “sometimes”; in 2020, it was 53%. Facebook is the site they go to most often, with 31% getting news there “regularly”; 22% get news regularly from YouTube, 13% from Twitter, and 11% from Instagram. These numbers have been relatively the same since 2020. TikTok has become more popular for news, however, with 22% saying they regularly got news there in 2020, versus 29% in 2021. White adults gravitate toward Facebook and Reddit most (60% and 54%, respectively, get news there), and more women than men go to Facebook (64% versus 35%).

On Aug. 30, the report “Partisan Divides in Media Trust Widen, Driven by a Decline Among Republicans” highlights a sharp decline: The percentage of Republicans and Republican-leaners who had “at least some trust in national news organizations” has dropped from 70% in 2016 to 35% in 2021. Meanwhile, 78% of Democrats and Democrat-leaners have “a lot” or “some” trust in national news organizations. As far as local news organizations, 75% have “at least some trust” in them (lower than the 82% who said so in 2016), with 84% of Democrats expressing trust and 66% of Republicans doing so. Only 27% overall say they have “at least some trust” in news coming from social media sites; 34% said this in 2016.


Brandi Scardilli is the editor of NewsBreaks and Information Today.

Email Brandi Scardilli

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