By Abigail Geiger
Pew Research Center,
Pew Research Center takes the pulse of Americans and people around the world on a host of issues every year. We explore public opinion on topics ranging from foreign policy to cyberbullying, as well as demographic trends, such as the emergence of the post-Millennial generation and changes in the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States. Here are 18 of this year’s standout findings, taken from our analyses over the past year.
1. Post-Millennials – today’s 6- to 21-year-olds, also known as Generation Z – are on track to be the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet. A bare majority of post-Millennials are non-Hispanic white (52%), while a quarter are Hispanic. And while most post-Millennials are still pursuing their K-12 education, the oldest members of this generation are enrolling in college at a significantly higher rate than Millennials were at a comparable age.
2. There were 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2016, down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007. The total is the lowest since 2004 and is tied to a decline in the number of Mexican unauthorized immigrants during this time. Meanwhile, unauthorized immigrants are increasingly likely to be long-term U.S. residents: Two-thirds of adult immigrants without legal status have lived in the country for more than 10 years.
3. Younger Americans are better than their elders at separating factual from opinion statements in the news. About a third (32%) of Americans ages 18 to 49 correctly identified all five factual statements they were asked to categorize in a Pew Research Center survey, compared with 20% of those 50 and older. Younger adults (44%) were also more likely than older Americans (26%) to accurately classify all five opinion statements. These patterns persisted regardless of the ideological appeal of the statements.
4. Americans generally agree on the democratic ideals and values they see as important for the U.S. – but they say the country is falling short in living up to them. For example, while 84% of Americans say it is very important that the rights and freedoms of all people are respected, 47% say this describes the country well. And while 83% say it’s very important that elected officials face serious consequences for misconduct, just three-in-ten say this describes the country well. Despite these criticisms, many Americans say democracy is working well in the United States (58%).
5. About six-in-ten women in the U.S. (59%) say they have been sexually harassed. Women with at least some college education are far more likely than those with less education to say they have experienced harassment. Non-Hispanic white women are also more likely than women in other racial and ethnic groups to cite such experiences. Around a quarter of men (27%) say they have been sexually harassed.
A separate Pew Research Center analysis of publicly available English-language tweets found that the #MeToo hashtag had been used on Twitter more than 19 million times between October 2017 – when actress Alyssa Milano first urged sexual abuse victims to share their stories and the hashtag first went viral – and Sept. 30, 2018.
6. Young adults who use Facebook are particularly likely to have deleted the Facebook app from their phone at some point in the past year. While about a quarter of all U.S. Facebook users ages 18 and older (26%) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their phone, this share increases to 44% among Facebook users ages 18 to 29. In comparison, just 12% of users 65 and older say they have deleted the app in the past year. A majority of Facebook users ages 18 to 29 (64%) also say they have adjusted their privacy settings in the past year, while 47% have taken a break from checking the platform for several weeks or more.
7. A declining share of U.S. Catholics say Pope Francis is doing a good or excellent job addressing the church’s sex abuse scandal. About a third say this (31%), down from 55% in June 2015. The decline in confidence has occurred across age groups, among both men and women and even among those who attend Mass weekly. And while Francis is still widely popular overall among U.S. Catholics, there is evidence that positive views of him are eroding.
8. The number of refugees resettled in the U.S. decreased more than in any other country in 2017. That year the U.S. resettled 33,000 refugees, the lowest total since the two years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and a steep drop from 2016. Non-U.S. countries resettled more than twice as many refugees as the U.S. in 2017, marking the first time since the adoption of the 1980 U.S. Refugee Act that America’s total fell below the combined total from the rest of the world.
Americans’ opinions on whether the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees have grown even more partisan than they had been. While nearly seven-in-ten Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (68%) say the U.S. does not have a responsibility to take in refugees, nearly three-quarters of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (74%) say it does have such responsibility. Overall, about half (51%) of Americans say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees.
9. A majority of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 (57%) fear a shooting could happen at their school, and most parents of teens share their concern. Nonwhite teens express greater concern over the possibility of a shooting at their school than white teens, and girls are more likely than boys to cite such concern. Most parents also share the concern of a shooting at their children’s school. More than eight-in-ten teens and adults say preventing people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns and improving mental health screening and treatment would be effective at preventing school shootings.
10. A majority of U.S. teens (59%) have experienced some form of cyberbullying. About four-in-ten teens ages 13 to 17 (42%) say they have been called offensive names online or on their cellphone, 32% say they have had false rumors spread about them and one-quarter report that they have received explicit images they didn’t ask for. At the same time, nine-in-ten teens say online harassment is a problem that affects their peers. And while a majority of teens think parents are doing a good job addressing the issue, they are critical of the way teachers, social media companies and politicians are tackling cyberbullying.
11. Most people around the globe say China plays a more important role in the world today than it did a decade ago – but most also say it’s better for the U.S. to lead the way. A median of 70% across 25 countries say China is playing a more important role today compared with 10 years ago, while 31% think the same about the U.S. At the same time, a median of 63% believe it would be better to have the U.S. as the world’s leading power, but just 19% say this about China. When it comes to which of the two nations is currently the world’s leading economic power, a median of 39% point to the U.S., while 34% name China.
12. Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to favor making it easy for every citizen to vote. More than eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic leaners (84%) say everything possible should be done to make it easy for everyone to vote, compared with a smaller share of Republicans and Republican leaners (48%). A majority of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents (57%) say changing rules to make voting easier would make elections less secure, while 76% of Democrats say this would not be the case.
13. Almost seven-in-ten Americans (68%) feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days. While members of both parties say this, Republicans are feeling it more: Roughly three-quarters (77%) of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents feel worn out over how much news there is, compared with 61% of Democrats and Democratic leaners. Almost seven-in-ten Americans are exhausted by the news – Republicans more so than Democrats
14. Income inequality in the U.S. is greatest among Asians. Asians near the top of the income ladder earned 10.7 times as much as Asians near the bottom in 2016, a ratio that has nearly doubled since 1970. Asians have displaced blacks as the most economically divided racial or ethnic group in the U.S. Overall, Americans near the top of the income ladder had 8.7 times as much income as those near the bottom in 2016.
15. Nine-in-ten Americans believe in a higher power, but just a slim majority (56%) believes in God as described in the Bible. Belief in a higher power is even common among religious “nones,” or those who identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” Meanwhile, about half (48%) of U.S. adults say that God or another higher power directly determines what happens in their lives all or most of the time, and three-quarters say they try to talk to God or another higher power.
16. Most Americans (59%) say climate change is affecting their local community at least some, especially those who live near a coast. Two-thirds of those who live within 25 miles of a coastline (67%) say this, compared with 59% of those who live 25 to 299 miles from a coast and half of those who live 300 miles or more from a coast. These geographical differences exist within the parties too: Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who live within 25 miles of a coastline are more likely than those who live at least 300 miles inland to say climate change is affecting their local community. The same is true among Republicans and Republican leaners.
Those living close to a coastline are more likely to say climate change is affecting their local community
17. Most Central and Eastern Europeans oppose same-sex marriage, while most Western Europeans favor it. In some cases, these views are almost universally held: Nine-in-ten Russians, for instance, oppose legal same-sex marriage, while similarly lopsided majorities in Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. The East-West gap is large even among young people: Central and Eastern Europeans ages 18 to 34 are far more likely than their counterparts in Western Europe to oppose same-sex unions. East-West differences are evident on numerous other issues, too, including measures of religious observance and attitudes toward minorities.
18 “Bots” on Twitter may be behind more link sharing than human beings. An estimated two-thirds of tweeted links to popular news and media websites (66%) are posted by automated accounts, while around a third (34%) are posted by human accounts, based on a sample of tweets from 2017. A relatively small number of highly active bots appear to be responsible for many of those links.
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