Research: America, this looks like you

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The well respected and comprehensive Pew Research Center’s statistics go beyond demographics to “take the pulse of Americans and people around the world on a host of issues.” Exploring public opinion among teens to senior citizens on issues from foreign policy to theology, here are a few of those selected by Pew Research as 2018’s “standout findings:”

Post-Millennials or Generation Z — today’s 6- to 21-year-olds — are the most racially and ethnically diverse yet. A bare majority of post-Millennials are non-Hispanic white (52 percent), while a quarter are Hispanic, 6 percent Asian, and 4 percent “other.” 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.

The number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. has been steadily declining since 2007. The 2016 total of 10.7 million is the lowest since 2004. 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. Counting legal immigrants, nearly 14 percent of the U.S. population was born in another country — more than 44 million people in 2017.

Younger Americans are better than their elders at separating fact from opinion in the news. About a third (32 percent) 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 percent of those 50 and older. Younger adults (44 percent) were also more likely than older Americans (26 percent) to accurately classify all five opinion statements. These patterns persisted regardless of the ideological appeal of the statements.

Americans generally agree on the democratic ideals and values they see as important for the U.S. — but believe the country isn’t living up to them. For example, while 84 percent of Americans say it’s important that the rights and freedoms of all people are respected, only 47 percent say this describes the country well. And while 83 percent say it’s very important that elected officials face serious consequences for misconduct, just three-in-10 say this describes the country well. Despite these criticisms, many Americans say democracy is working well in the United States (58 percent).

About six-in-10 women in the U.S. (59 percent) say they have been sexually harassed. Women with at least some college education are far more likely than those with less education to report harassment. Around a quarter of men (27 percent) say they have been sexually harassed.

A majority of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 (57 percent) fear a shooting could happen at their school, and most parents of teens share their concern. More than eight-in-10 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.

Almost seven-in-10 Americans (68 percent) 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 percent) of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents feel worn out over how much news there is, compared with 61 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners.

Most Americans (59 percent) 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 percent) say this, compared with 59 percent of those who live 25 to 299 miles from a coast and half of those who live 300 miles or more from a coast.

“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 percent) are posted by automated accounts, while around a third (34 percent) 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.

Nine-in-10 Americans believe in a higher power, but just a slim majority (56 percent) 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 percent) 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.

For more information see: Pewresearch.org/fact-tank

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Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Contact her at Sholeh@cdapress.com.

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