Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: State of the Union and the 2010 Census

The State of the Union speech given last Wednesday by President Obama was a major event and the focus of several polls.  Though Gallup reported that, historically, support for the President is not affected by the State of the Union, a before-after survey conducted by CNN shows that the address bolstered viewers confidence in the administration.  How long this boost will last, and whether it can be generalized to the entire public, remains to be seen. Another significant upcoming event receiving increasing attention is the decennial census which will be conducted in March.

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Public Opinion Monthly

Looking Back on the Past Year
Reflecting on the Last Decade
Outlook on the Next Year
Expectations for the Coming Decade►

This month's Public Opinion Monthly examines people's feelings on the past and the future as we enter not only a new year, but a new decade.  The last ten years have been full of change, uncertainty and often struggle, yet people hold on to hope and show great resilience in their optimism as they look ahead to what the next ten years may hold.

The Past Year

Mixed emotions on 2009:  According to a new AP GfK Roper survey, nearly three in four (73%) believe that 2009 was a bad year for the country.  A plurality (42%) expressed that 2009 was a very bad year, and 31% assert that 2009 was a somewhat bad year for the country overall.  For individuals and their families, a majority (61%) expressed that 2009 was actually a good year and 38% reported that it was a bad year.  Only a small minority (15%) felt that 2009 was a very bad year for them individually.

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Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: Latinos in the U.S.

Over the next few decades, the United Sates’ Latino population is estimated to triple, comprising about 29% of US residents. At the same time, voters of Latin descent made up 7.4% of the electorate. In a continuing effort to better understand the attitudes and values of Latinos as expressed in survey studies in the past, we rounded up below findings from recent months.

The Pew Hispanic Center released today a new survey of Latinos focusing especially on young people who are ages 16 to 25. The survey explores the “attitudes, values, social behaviors, family characteristics, economic well-being, educational attainment and labor force outcomes of these young Latinos”. We will look more carefully at this study in one of our upcoming blog postings, but we wanted to bring attention to the racial identification of Latinos in this survey, in case it’s taken out of context in the various coverage of the study. Three out of four Latinos don’t identify themselves as white in the race question (“What race do you consider yourself to be: white, black or African- American, Asian, or some other race?”), or they volunteer that their race is Hispanic or Latino, although based on the U.S. Census these terms are used to describe ethnicity. This finding is consistent with what we see in studies of Latinos every day. The questions usually asked and response choices offered to identify the respondent’s ethnicity and race are not aligned with the way Latinos think about race.

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Talking Human Rights in the United States

Today, Human Rights Day, serves as an opportunity to tell key audiences why the United States should consider dignity, fairness, and human rights in domestic policy decisions. Several national debates loom in which these values should be central, namely health care and immigration. At the same time, state-level budget crises pose threats to the fulfillment and protection of human rights at the local level.

As we think about the best way to use Human Rights Day in our communications work, recent public opinion research done by our organization offers some insight into public thinking about human rights generally, and its intersection with a range of social justice issues. Our recent released Human Rights Toolkit builds on this research to provide messaging guidelines and recommendations about human rights, treaties and conventions, health care, due process, immigration, racial profiling and criminal justice for young offenders.

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November Public Opinion Roundup

Covered this month:
Suspects of Terrorism and Due Process
Race in the Age of Obama

This month’s insight into the public mind is on rights for suspects of terrorism and due process, and racial attitudes in the age of Obama, a topic which we will continue to track and analyze here over time.

The Obama administration has decided to try five terrorist suspects and Guantanamo Bay detainees, including alleged mastermind of the 9.11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian federal court in New York. Since the decision was announced, several polls have been released exploring Americans approval, or not, of the administration's decision. The public seems to be divided on whether military or civil trial with an edge for the former option. However not all polls tell the same story. Support for closed military courts tends to increase—drastically—depende nt on the wording of the question and the information inserted in it. In no studies did the option for a civil trial gain more support than military courts. A closer look at demographic breakdowns suggest that party affiliation, as expected, drives support for military trial up.

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