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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Knowledge of US Government and Crime

Many posts have discussed the public's limited knowledge of government and public issues. From the Annenberg Public Policy Center:
Americans show great uncertainty when it comes to answering basic questions about how their government works, a national survey conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania has found.

The survey of 1,416 adults, released for Constitution Day (Sept. 17) in conjunction with the launch of the Civics Renewal Network, found that:
  • While little more than a third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, just as many (35 percent) could not name a single one.
  • Just over a quarter of Americans (27 percent) know it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto.
  • One in five Americans (21 percent) incorrectly thinks that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration....

The study also found that more than half of Americans do not know which party controls the House and Senate:
  • Asked which party has the most members in the House of Representatives, 38 percent said they knew the Republicans are the majority, but 17 percent responded the Democrats, and 44 percent reported that they did not know (up from 27 percent who said they did not know in 2011).
  • Asked which party controls the Senate, 38 percent correctly said the Democrats, 20 percent said the Republicans, and 42 percent said they did not know (also up from 27 percent who said they did not know in 2011).
For the complete release on the survey, click here. For additional information on methodology and data, click here.

From YouGov:
Compared to most of the developed world, the United States has an unusually high violent crime rate. Nevertheless, over the past twenty years the US has seen a huge drop in crime. Most violent crime rates, including for murder, have halved in the past twenty years. ...
Most Americans, however, don't recognize that violent crime has dropped so significantly over the past twenty years. Over that time frame the national murder rate has halved, along with non-lethal violent crime, yet half the country (50%) say that violent crime has increased since 1994, and only 22% know that it has decreased. Younger Americans are less likely to say that crime has increased since the mid-90s, while people with a household income of over $80,000 are the only group that tends to know that violent crime has dropped.
Americans also think that New York remains dangerous, even though it is the safest big city in the country.

Opinion on Government Waste

Gallup reports:
Americans estimate that the federal government wastes 51 cents of each tax dollar. This matches their prior estimate in 2011, which was the highest Gallup had measured since 1979. Americans are less harsh about their state and local governments, viewing them as wasting 42 cents and 37 cents, respectively.
When Gallup first asked the question in 1979, Americans estimated that the federal government wasted 40 cents of every dollar, their state government wasted 31 cents, and their local government wasted 25 cents. Those are the lowest figures for state and local levels of government in any year since, while the lowest waste estimate for federal spending was a slightly lower 38 cents in a 1986 survey.
Gallup didn't ask these questions during the next decade, but when it next asked them in 2001, the "wasted cents" estimates were roughly in line with those in the 1980s. Since 2001, however, the proportion of the tax dollar Americans say the federal and state governments waste has increased, while the estimate for local governments has remained roughly the same.
Americans historically have always seen local governments as wasting the lowest proportion of each dollar, while seeing the federal government as wasting the most. This is consistent with Gallup research showing that Americans' trust in state and local governments is significantly higher than their trust in the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Poverty and Health Insurance

From the Census:
The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that in 2013, the poverty rate declined from the previous year for the first time since 2006, while there was no statistically significant change in either the number of people living in poverty or real median household income. In addition, the poverty rate for children under 18 declined from the previous year for the first time since 2000. The following results for the nation were compiled from information collected in the 2014 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.
The nation’s official poverty rate in 2013 was 14.5 percent, down from 15.0 percent in 2012. The 45.3 million people living at or below the poverty line in 2013, for the third consecutive year, did not represent a statistically significant change from the previous year’s estimate.
Median household income in the United States in 2013 was $51,939; the change in real terms from the 2012 median of $51,759 was not statistically significant. This is the second consecutive year that the annual change was not statistically significant, following two consecutive annual declines.

The percentage of people without health insurance coverage for the entire 2013 calendar year was 13.4 percent; this amounted to 42.0 million people.

These findings are contained in two reports: Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013 and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2013
Robert Doar writes at AEI:
Over five years since the end of the recession, it would seem reasonable to expect that poverty would have dropped further from the peak hit in 2010. At 14.5% in 2013, the poverty rate has dropped from the peak of 15.1% hit in 2010. That’s progress. But it is still very far from a low of 11.3% in 2000.
Back then—with a strong economy and aggressive work-first welfare policies—we had experienced seven straight years of reductions in the poverty rate. African American child poverty reached an all-time low in 2001 also due to the winning combination of strong economic growth, work requirements in welfare, and well-targeted work supports that made work pay for those working at low wages.
We have gotten away from all three. Our economy remains stalled. Work requirements effectively do not exist in many of our welfare programs: food stamp benefits intended to support low-wage work seem to be replacing it instead, with 10 million non-elderly and non-disabled SNAP recipients not reporting any earnings. The work disincentives embedded in the Affordable Care Act are not helping either.

Inland Empire Economic Forecast Conference

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Opinion on Regulation

Gallup reports:
Less than one quarter of Americans (22%) say there is too little government regulation of business and industry, while about half (49%) say there is too much regulation. An additional 27% say the level of regulation is about right. These attitudes have been consistent over the past five years. Prior to that, the percentage who said there was too much regulation rose between 2008 and 2010.

The latest data are from Gallup's annual Governance survey, conducted Sept. 4-7. The Governance poll this year shows general declines in Americans' trust in all three branches of government, and a dip in Americans' trust in the federal government to handle domestic and international problems.
As is the case with most attitudes about government and government use of power, Republicans and Democrats have sharply differing views on government regulation of business. About three-quarters of Republicans (76%) say there is too much regulation, compared with less than one-quarter (22%) of Democrats.

Monday, September 15, 2014

US Education Spending in Comparative Perspective

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States ranks high among developed nations in per-student education spending:

Secret Senate Handbook

Donovan Slack and Paul Singer report at USA Today:
USA TODAY has obtained and is making available on our website a copy of the 380-page U.S. Senate Handbook, which describes itself as "a compilation of the policies and regulations governing office administration, equipment and services, security and financial management."
U.S. Senate Handbook: The handbook reads something like an employee manual, explaining how new senators and staff members can get ID cards and how many parking passes each senator will be issued. But it also contains detailed rules on how each senator can spend their official, multi-million-dollar, taxpayer-funded budget on things like meals and travel.
Yet, because it has not been released, it's been impossible for the public to know whether a senator has violated the rules — for example by charging taxpayers for an improper charter flight.
The handbook is referenced in rules published by the Senate Ethics Committee, Congressional Research Service reports and history books. But the Rules Committee, which produces the handbook, does not release it. The Library of Congress does not even have a copy.