Pew Research Center

Seismic Demographic Shifts Contribute to Rising Racial Animus

Pew Research has updated its demographic report that shows racial and ethnic minorities are continuing to grow and there are now around 300 nonwhite-majority counties in America, most of which are located in the Southwest from Texas to California. Virtually none are in the stretch of America from the Ohio Valley to the Pacific Northwest.

Pew Research has updated its demographic report that shows racial and ethnic minorities are continuing to grow and there are now around 300 nonwhite-majority counties in America, most of which are located in the Southwest from Texas to California. Virtually none are in the stretch of America from the Ohio Valley to the Pacific Northwest.

Intensifying racial and ethnic animus in America can be traced in part to changing demographics as Hispanic, Asian and African-American populations continue to grow, while white populations remain relatively stable.

According to an updated Pew Research Center study released last week, racial diversification is occurring unevenly around the nation, which may explain differing attitudes toward demographic shifts.

Pew Research says 109 counties went from majority white to majority nonwhite between 2000 and 2018, based on US Census information. There are now almost 300 counties in the country with nonwhite majorities.

The largest number of nonwhite-majority counties are in the Southwest from Texas to Southern California. There are concentrations of nonwhite-majority counties in the South and along the Eastern seaboard. There are virtually none from the Ohio River Valley through the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. There are two nonwhite-majority counties – Yakima and Adams – in Washington and none in Oregon. 

Nonwhite majorities exist in 21 of the 25 US counties with the largest populations. Eight of those 21 had white majorities as recently as 2000. They include San Diego, Orange, Riverside and Sacramento counties in California, Clark County in Nevada, Broward County in Florida, Tarrant County in Texas and Wayne County in Michigan. Hispanics represented the largest nonwhite population in seven of those eight counties. African-Americans were the largest nonwhite population in Wayne County, which includes Detroit.

Pew notes two counties, both with small populations, shifted from nonwhite majorities to white majorities in the same time period – Calhoun County in South Carolina and West Feliciana Parish in Louisiana.

Even as racial and ethnic diversity increases, whites remain the single largest bloc, Pew says, accounting for 60 percent of the nation’s populations. The largest US counties with white majorities include King County in Washington.

The Pew demographic study also noted reverse migration patterns, such as African-Americans leaving northern states to move to Atlanta and an increase in multiracial Americans.

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 An earlier PEW Research commentary noted six significant demographic trends:

  1. Millennials between the ages of 23 and 38 are the largest adult cohort in America and tend to be more educated, more racially and ethnically diverse and slower to marry than previous generations.

  2. Hispanics are projected to be the largest racial and ethnic group that will cast votes in the 2020 election.

  3. The American family continues to change. Now one in four US parents is unmarried.

  4. The 13.6 percent immigrant share of the US population is approaching a record high dating back to 1910 when immigrants accounted for 14.7 percent of the US population. The percentage was slightly higher in 1890. According to United Nations data, 25 nations and territories have a larger percentage of immigrant population than the United States.

  5. The unauthorized immigrant population in the United States is at its lowest level in more than a decade.

  6. Incomes are rising, but the increase is not spread equally. US household income is at or near its highest level in the last 50 years, while income inequality has grown, especially among racial and ethnic groups. For example, between 1970 and 2016, Asian-Americans went from a group with the lowest income inequality to the highest.

And, here are some bonus demographic data points related to older adults:

  • Around 90 percent of the increase in US employment since 1998 has come from higher employment of workers 55 and older.

  • The labor force participation rate for people age 65 to 69 has risen from roughly 28 percent in 1998 to 38 percent in 2019 for men and from 18 percent to about 30 percent for women.

  • Adults between ages 55 and 64 made up 26 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2017, an increase over the 19 percent figure in 2007.

Plunging Participation Rates Plague Telephone Surveys

Robocalls, caller ID and impatience with dinner-time calls have shrunk the number of people willing to be respondents for telephone public opinion surveys. Pew Research and others have shifted to online panel research, an alternative CFM has recommended for years.

Robocalls, caller ID and impatience with dinner-time calls have shrunk the number of people willing to be respondents for telephone public opinion surveys. Pew Research and others have shifted to online panel research, an alternative CFM has recommended for years.

Response rates to telephone public opinion surveys continue to decline, making them more expensive and less attractive than online panel research. We’ve been pointing to this trend for years. Now Pew Research confirms it.

The response rate on landline phones to survey calls in 1997 was 36 percent. In 2018, it fell to 6 percent. Potential telephone survey respondents have declined recently because of the surge in robocalls. Phones with caller ID also discourage answering unfamiliar rings and sometimes flag survey calls as spam.

This isn’t the end of public opinion research. Online panel research has represented an attractive and versatile alternative for some time. Participation rates tend to be higher, there is an ability to follow up with some or all of respondents and it appears participants are more candid online than on the phone. Participation is higher because respondents can answer survey questions when it is convenient for them, as opposed to when someone calls on the phone.

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According to Pew Research, low response rates on telephone surveys, especially ones that include cell phones, don’t equate to lower accuracy of findings. The real impact is higher costs. “This reality,” Pew says, “often forces survey organizations to make trade-offs in their studies, such as reducing sample size, extending field periods or reducing quality in other ways in order to shift resources to the interviewing effort.” Those trade-offs can lessen confidence in results.

Lower participation rates on telephone surveys aren’t new.  They have steadily declined since at least 1997. Rates stabilized around 9 percent in 2013, then started plunging again in 2016. Lower participation rates have persuaded Pew to conduct most of its US polling online using its American Trends Panel.

CFM has recommended online panel research to skeptical clients. To ease skepticism, we have benchmarked online results with results from telephone surveys, showing that results are comparable. 

As telephone survey participation rates have declined and sample sizes have been trimmed, panel research offers an affordable opportunity for larger sample sizes, often larger than even healthy telephone survey samples.

Larger sample sizes can increase the confidence rate for panel research by ensuring the samples are representative of the audience being polled. Larger sample sizes have another practical value – they allow for greater segmentation of respondent results, which can be valuable in reading poll results. For example, in political polling, it is useful to have reliable results by congressional districts as well as statewide.

Maybe the greatest value of online research over telephone surveys is the ability to follow up with respondents. This can take the form of sharing findings, asking follow-up questions or seeking views on subsequent, related information.

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Segmentation of panels allows segmented research. Follow-up questions can be directed at respondents based on their answers to questions. Online focus groups can be organized with respondents voicing a particular view. When we assisted Oregon officials in building a transportation funding proposal, we conducted online focus groups with respondents who expressed opposition to a gas tax increase, which produced useful information and an insightful dialogue among opponents that guided how the funding proposal was presented.

Telephone surveys have been a reliable research tool and still have utility. The ubiquity of cell phones, the surge of robocalls and the reluctance of people to interrupt dinner to answer survey questions are challenges that make telephone surveys a less effective option than before. The challenges are significant enough that panel research skeptics should put aside their doubts and talk to the firms that have spent time honing the use of online panel research.

A Statistical Portrait of Immigration Unlike TV Reports

News coverage of the US-Mexican border fails to reveal the extent and benefits of immigration to America that has surged since passage in 1965 of the last significant immigration bill. Pew Research has produced a revealing picture that indicates immigrants have always been part of the American portrait.

News coverage of the US-Mexican border fails to reveal the extent and benefits of immigration to America that has surged since passage in 1965 of the last significant immigration bill. Pew Research has produced a revealing picture that indicates immigrants have always been part of the American portrait.

If you watch the nightly news, you might think the few thousand migrants from Central America trying to enter the United States to seek asylum would tip the balance in the American population. A statistical portrait of the foreign-born population in America suggests otherwise.

The Pew Research Center has an online tutorial on US immigration to help Americans better recognize their immigrant neighbors who are already here, many of whom for more than a decade. Pew estimates there were 43.7 million immigrants in the United States in 2016, which is more than any other country in the world.

Contrary to impressions left by news stories of migrant caravans, Pew says three-fourths of the US immigrant population is here legally as naturalized citizens, permanent residents, green card holders or people with temporary visas to attend college or other purposes.

The rate of immigration into the United States has shot up since passage in 1965 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. The foreign-born population since then has quadrupled. The legislation was passed in recognition that immigrants would be needed to make up for relatively low US birthrates.

The most noticeable and consequential change in US immigration patterns since 1960 has been the decline of European and Canadian immigrants and a sharp increase in immigrants from Mexico, Latin America and Asia. For example, Asians represented just 4 percent of all immigrants in 1960. In 2016, they accounted for 27 percent. Statistics for Mexican immigration are similar, rising from 6 percent in 1960 to 28 percent in 2016.

While Pew doesn’t say it, more immigrants of color, with different cultural and religious traditions, has contributed to heightened awareness of and in some cases hostility toward immigrants, a factor that played a significant role of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.

Pew Research Center has developed an informative resource that describes immigrants in America – who they are, how long they have been here, how they are faring and where they live. It’s a fascinating set of statistics that shows immigration is a lot more complicated and significant than skirmishes at the US-Mexican border.

Pew Research Center has developed an informative resource that describes immigrants in America – who they are, how long they have been here, how they are faring and where they live. It’s a fascinating set of statistics that shows immigration is a lot more complicated and significant than skirmishes at the US-Mexican border.

Pew notes that 75 percent of foreign-born immigrants have lived in the United States for more than 10 years. Immigrants account for almost 14 percent of US population, while second-generation, US-born children constitute another 12 percent.

Trump’s attention glued to the US-Mexican border overlooks that Asian immigrants now outnumber Hispanic immigrants, according to Pew. The estimated number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has dropped slightly from a high of 12.2 percent in 2007 to 11.3 percent in 2016. Unauthorized immigrants have been relatively constant since around 2000. Some 11.6 million US immigrants were born in Mexico, which eclipses the next highest birth countries, China (2.7 million) and India (2.4 million)

Another noteworthy statistic is that more than 15 percent of immigrants 25 years or older have earned bachelor’s degrees and another 12 percent hold post-graduate degrees.

In 1960, male and female immigrants were roughly equal and tended to be older (55-74). In 2016, immigrants remained roughly equal by sex, but were significantly younger (30-54). Mexican immigrants were the youngest with a median age of 42.

Second-generation children of immigrants in 2016 were largely younger, from ages 0-19. More than 50 years later, second-generation children are more evenly balanced from ages 0-69.

There is a huge geographical disparity as to where immigrants live. Almost 35 percent live in the Western United States, while 33 percent live in the South. California, Texas and New York are home to 46 percent of immigrants. Sixty percent of immigrants live in just 20 US metropolitan areas.   

What disquiets some Americans are projections that people of color will overtake Caucasians as the majority population by the middle of this century. Some anti-immigrant groups warn of rising crime, but official data indicates first-generation immigrants have lower crime rates and are more likely to be married than the average US population

For most Americans, Thanksgiving isn’t the only time for thankfulness

Thanksgiving is a time when Americans are supposed to reflect on what they are thankful for.

But it’s not the only time they do so. A large majority of Americans (78%) feel a strong sense of gratitude or thankfulness on a weekly basis, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center. And only 6% of Americans say they seldom or never experience these feelings.

That being said, some groups are more likely than others to express gratitude. For example, 84% of women regularly feel a strong sense of gratitude or thankfulness, compared to 72% of men. And nearly nine-in-ten Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and evangelical Protestants – traditionally some of the most observant religious groups – say they feel gratitude or thankfulness at least once a week.

While the survey question about gratitude did not ask explicitly about gratitude to God, regular feelings of gratitude are more common among those who are highly religious than among those who are not. For example, eight-in-ten or more Americans who believe in God, or who say religion is “very” or “somewhat” important in their lives, experience feelings of gratitude or thankfulness on a weekly basis. About nine-in-ten Americans who regularly attend religious services, pray, participate in prayer groups or read scripture say they regularly feel a strong sense of gratitude.

Among Americans who seldom or never participate in these activities, smaller majorities report feeling gratitude and thankfulness. For instance, among Americans who do not believe in God, 58% say they regularly feel a sense of gratitude. And roughly six-in-ten (62%) Americans who say that religion is “not too” or “not at all important” express these feelings.

In addition, feelings of gratitude are common among a wide variety of groups. For example, more than three quarters of Americans with less than a college education (77%) as well as those with a college degree (79%) feel gratitude and thankfulness on a weekly basis. And those at the low end of the economic ladder — adults who earn less than $30,000 per year — are equally as likely as better-off Americans to regularly feel thankful.

A Death Sentence for a Dying Punishment

A jury sentenced Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death today, but by the time all his appeals have been exhausted American attitudes toward the death penalty may have shift to opposition.

A jury sentenced Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death today, but by the time all his appeals have been exhausted American attitudes toward the death penalty may have shift to opposition.

A  jury today sentenced convicted Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the death penalty, as support among Americans for the death penalty is declining, but still the majority view.

Pew Research conducted a poll in April that found 56 percent of Americans support the death penalty and 38 percent oppose it. In 1995, 78 percent of Americans favored the death penalty, but support has sharply declined ever since. Opposition to the death penalty bottomed out in 1995 at 18 percent and has steadily climbed.

The Pew poll indicated only 40 percent of Democrats support the death penalty, compared to 77 percent of Republicans.

Viewpoints among racial groups vary widely. Sixty-three percent of whites favor the death penalty, contrasted to 34 percent of blacks and 45 percent of Hispanics. Seventy-seven percent of blacks say minorities are more likely to receive death sentences for similar crimes committed by whites. Whites are evenly divided on the issue of disproportionate death sentences.

Attitudes about the death penalty vary widely between supporters and opponents. For example, 90 percent of those who favor the death penalty view it as morally justified, while only 26 percent of opponents agree it is morally justified. Forty-two percent of supporters believe minorities are more likely to be sentenced to death, while 68 percent of opponents hold that belief.

Interestingly, 49 percent of death penalty supporters doubt it as a deterrent to crime; 78 percent of opponents share that doubt. Sixty-three percent of supporters and 84 percent of opponents acknowledge "some risk of putting innocent people to death."

Data shows death row executions peaked in 1999 and have fallen since then. Six states have abolished the death penalty since 2004. By far and away, the largest percentage of executions occur in Southern states.

Another factor influencing views about the death penalty is how long appeals take, leaving people on death rows for decades. Critics of the death penalty have pointed to the extra judicial and incarceration costs posed by death sentences.

The Boston jury's verdict today won't be the last word on Tsarnaev's death sentence, which could take years to unfold. By then, support for the death penalty may have eroded even further.

Shortcomings of the Presidential Speech

Most Americans look to the President for leadership, but evidence compiled by Pew Research suggests they don't often find it in major presidential speeches.

President Obama will try his luck tonight in a televised address seeking to convince skeptical, war-weary Americans of the need to make a targeted military strike against Syria. Polling data indicates opinion is running against U.S. military action. 

Based on history, Pew Research says Obama's speech isn't like to make much difference, except perhaps to make the emotionally charged issue more partisan. 

After sifting through a database of major presidential addresses devoted to specific topics, Pew concluded, "The speeches don't seem to do much to move the needle on public opinion or push Congress in the President's direction."

"President Reagan, for instance, was unable to convince even a plurality of Americans that the United States should provide military aid to the Contra rebels fighting Nicaragua's Sandinista government, despite three Oval Office addresses on the issue between March 1986 and February 1988."

President George H. W. Bush similarly failed to convince more than a third of Americans of the value of a deficit reduction deal he struck with Congress in 1990.

President George W. Bush took to the airwaves urging immigration reform with "path to citizenship," but failed to increase public support for such a plan from pre-speech levels.