Thursday, July 31, 2014

Public Opinion and Constitutional Interpretation

Pew reports:
Democrats and Republicans remain deeply divided about how the U.S. Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center. And there are many differences across demographic groups – especially when it comes to religious affiliation.
About half of the public (49%) say the decisions of the Supreme Court should be based on its understanding of what the Constitution “means in current times,” while roughly as many (46%) say decisions should be based on what the Constitution “meant as it was originally written.”
But Republicans—by more than two-to-one (69% to 29%)—say the justices should base their rulings on the Constitution’s original meaning rather than on what it means in current times. Democratic opinion goes the other way: 70% say the court should base its rulings on an understanding of the Constitution’s meaning in current times (26% say rulings should be based on the document’s original meaning).

These differing views of how the court should interpret the Constitution may account for some of the partisan differences in opinions of the court itself seen in the Pew Research Center’s latest survey.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Net Worth

The New York Times reports:
The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially.
The Russell Sage study also examined net worth at the 95th percentile. (For households at that level, 95 percent of the population had less wealth.) It found that for this well-do-do slice of the population, household net worthincreased 14 percent over the same 10 years. Other research, by economists like Edward Wolff at New York University, has shown even greater gains in wealth for the richest 1 percent of households.
For households at the median level of net worth, much of the damage has occurred since the start of the last recession in 2007. Until then, net worth had been rising for the typical household, although at a slower pace than for households in higher wealth brackets. But much of the gain for many typical households came from the rising value of their homes. Exclude that housing wealth and the picture is worse: Median net worth began to decline even earlier.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Religion and Race

Gallup reports:
The relationship between religiosity and party identification in the U.S. has been both constant across time and most demographic groups within the population, including age, gender, region, and socio-economic status. Within each category of these groups, Americans who are the most religious are the most likely to be Republican, while those who are the least religious are the most likely to be Democratic.
The one exception to the basic religiousness and party identification relationship occurs among black Americans, who tend to be the most Democratic of any major race and ethnic group measured. Blacks are very religious on average, but the political orientation of blacks who are nonreligious does not vary significantly from those who are very religious. Democratic affiliation among black Americans hovers near 75% within all three religious groups of black Americans.
On the other hand, non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, and Asians follow the basic pattern bserved in the general population, with more religious members of each group skewing more Republican. The relationship is most pronounced among non-Hispanic whites, among whom the swing in the net Democratic advantage goes from +18 points among those who are unreligious to -39 points among those who are very religious.
Political Party Affiliation, by Religiousness, Race and Ethnicity

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mass Media, Social Media, and Overseas Conflicts

Anjam Sundaram writes at The New York Times:
I worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a stringer, a freelance journalist paid by the word, for a year and a half, in 2005-06. There, on the bottom rung of the news ladder, I grasped the role of the imaginary in the production of world news. Congo is the scene of one of the greatest man-made disasters of our lifetimes. Two successive wars have killed more than five million people since 1996.
Yet this great event in human history has produced no sustained reporting. No journalist is stationed consistently on the front lines of the war telling us its stories.
In some places, though, social media are partially filling the gap. Also at The Times, David Carr writes:
Vietnam was the first war to leak into many American living rooms, albeit delayed by the limits of television technology at the time. CNN put all viewers on a kind of war footing, with its live broadcasts from the first gulf war in 1991.
But in the current news ecosystem, we don’t have to wait for the stentorian anchor to arrive and set up shop. Even as some traditional media organizations have pulled back, new players like Vice and BuzzFeed have stepped in to sometimes remarkable effect.
Citizen reports from the scene are quickly augmented by journalists. And those journalists on the ground begin writing about what they see, often via Twitter, before consulting with headquarters about what it all means.
Bearing witness is the oldest and perhaps most valuable tool in the journalist’s arsenal, but it becomes something different delivered in the crucible of real time, without pause for reflection. It is unedited, distributed rapidly and globally, and immediately responded to by the people formerly known as the audience.
But overseas stories have a short life in social media.  Remember Kony and Boko Haram?  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

New York Times Flip-Flops on States' Rights

On May 29, 2011, The New York Times denounced states' rights.
States’ rights has been a politically charged concept for even longer. It was a basis for secession and then for years of Southern defiance on segregation. Now it is used as an excuse for rejecting national immigration policy.
Today, it embraces the idea:
A decision about what kinds of substances to permit, and under what conditions, belongs in the purview of the states, as alcohol is handled.
As we have noted before, President Obama and other Democrats have explicitly embraced the language of states' rights.

Media Consolidation

At Pew, Katerina Eva Matsa reports:
One of the key impacts of last year’s barrage of acquisitions has been the consolidation of local TV newsrooms, a number of which now share operations in news production. The survey found 1,026 local stations that aired newscasts in 2013 — the highest number since 2008, the first year that Pew Research began tracking this data. At the same time, the number of those stations that aired a newscast produced by another station in 2013 rose to 307 — an increase of 50% from 2008.
At The New York Times, James B. Stewart reports:
The much-admired Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black may be rolling in his grave at the prospect of a merger between 21st Century Fox and Time Warner Inc., which would reduce control of the major Hollywood studios to five owners, from six, and major television producers to four, from five.
Advocates for consolidation in media, who include not just Mr. Murdoch, who controls 21st Century Fox, and their allies, but also other big media, cable and telecommunications companies, tend to brush off antitrust concerns when it comes to content creation. (Even Time Warner has been cautious about raising any antitrust defenses, presumably because, should it thwart Mr. Murdoch this time, it may want to acquire its rivals at some point in the future.)
After all, the rise of Netflix and the popularity of YouTube demonstrate that anyone can make successful original programming in the freewheeling digital era. And even as television producers have consolidated, critics have hailed a new “golden age” of television.
But this ignores the fact that in 1983, 50 companies owned 90 percent of the media consumed by Americans. By 2012, just six companies — including Fox (then part of News Corporation) and Time Warner — controlled that 90 percent, according to testimony before the House Judiciary Committee examining Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Disability Data

Today is the 24th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The Census reports:
On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, commercial facilities, telecommunications, and state and local government services.
Population Distribution
56.7 million
Number of people in the United States in 2010 with a disability. People with disabilities represented 19 percent of the civilian noninstitutionalized population. Persons with a disability have a physical or mental impairment that affects one or more major life activities, such as walking, bathing, dressing, eating, preparing meals, going outside the home, or doing housework. A disability can occur at birth or at any point in a person's life.
By age —
  • 8 percent of children under 15 had a disability.
  • 21 percent of people 15 and older had a disability.
  • 17 percent of people 21 to 64 had a disability.
  • 50 percent of adults 65 and older had a disability.
Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <>
Percentage of females with a disability, compared with 17 percent of males.
Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <>

Specific Disabilities
7.6 million
Number of people 15 and older who had a hearing impairment. Among people 65 and older, 4 million had hearing impairments.
Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <>
8.1 million
Number of people 15 and older with a vision impairment.
Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <>
30.6 million
Number of people 15 and older who had movement impairment, such as walking or climbing stairs.
Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <>
3.6 million
Number of people 15 and older who used a wheelchair. This compares with 11.6 million people who used canes, crutches or walkers.
Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <>
2.4 million
Number of people 15 and older who had Alzheimer's disease, senility or any form of neurocognitive disorders.
Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010
12.0 million
Number of people 15 and older who required the assistance of others in order to perform one or more basic or instrumental activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, doing housework and preparing meals.
Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <>
Earnings and Poverty
Median earnings in the past 12 months for people with a disability. This is 66 percent of the median earnings, $30,660, for those without a disability.
Source: 2012 American Community Survey, Table B18140 <>
Percentage of people with a disability who were in poverty. By comparison, those without a disability had a poverty rate of 15 percent.
Source: 2012 American Community Survey, Table B18130
Government Assistance
Percentage of people who received income-based government assistance and have a disability; 18 percent of assistance recipients had difficulty walking or climbing stairs.
Source: Disability Characteristics of Income-Based Government Assistance Recipients in the United States: 2011 (from American Community Survey)