Morning Buzz | Early Voting is off to a Strong Start in Texas

Join PRRI at the Brookings Institution to Discuss Our Latest Survey
On Monday, October 29, 2018, PRRI CEO and founder Dr. Robert P. Jones will present the findings from our latest survey, “Partisan Polarization Dominates Trump Era: Findings From the 2018 American Values Survey,” at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. The annual survey focuses on some of the most important issues for Americans during the upcoming election season and beyond, including new numbers on party polarization, police brutality, immigration, and the #MeToo movement, among others. A panel of experts, including PRRI Public Fellow Dr. Janelle Wong, Asma Khalid of NPR, Dr. E.J. Dionne Jr. and Dr. William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution and Karlyn Bowman of AEI will be on hand to discuss the findings. The event will begin at 2:00PM and conclude at 4:00PM.
Early Voting off to a Strong Start in Texas
With less than two weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, Texans showed this week that they are ready to vote. According to The Houston Chronicle, several prominent Texas counties saw higher-than-usual turnout on the first day of early voting. “Harris County’s tally eclipsed the first-day total in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, even though midterms typically draw far fewer voters. Fort Bend and Montgomery counties experienced similar surges,” the paper notes. Whether this translates into higher turnout for young people remains to be seen. PRRI recently examined voter engagement ahead of the 2018 elections and found that many people are still undecided about whether they will vote at all. According to the new data, “more than half (55 percent) of Americans report that they are absolutely certain to vote, and an additional 16 percent say they will probably vote. About one-quarter (27 percent) put their odds of voting at 50-50 or less, including 12 percent who say they are definitely not voting.”
Pastor Wonders Out Loud if Evangelicals Are Paying Too High a Price for Anti-Abortion Wins
In a recent op-ed for USA Today, Pastor Doug Pagitt questioned whether it is right for white evangelical Christians and leaders to support President Donald Trump. According to Pagitt, a pastor in Minneapolis and the executive director of Vote Common Good, the anti-abortion laws and court decisions that may be gained are not worth their “high moral price.” Pagitt writes, “The Republican Party has used the issue of abortion as a tool to manipulate religious leaders across the country. These leaders’ highest concern is self-preservation. They fear God’s wrath and want impunity.” Pagitt uses Franklin Graham, an evangelical leader and strong Trump supporter, as an example of someone who is neglecting other issues that should be important to white evangelicals. PRRI’s most recent data shows that 73 percent of white evangelical Protestants hold a favorable opinion of Trump, which is largely unchanged from July 2018, when 77 percent reported a positive view of the president. Meanwhile, majorities of black Protestants (93 percent), Hispanic Catholics (76 percent), non-Christian religious Americans (74 percent), white Catholics (52 percent), and white mainline Protestants (52 percent) all have an unfavorable view of the president.
Trump Administration to Expand Religious Exemptions to Birth Control Coverage
A year after the Trump Administration tried to pass controversial exemptions to birth control coverage, the administration seems to be trying again. Samantha Schmidt of The Washington Post writes: “The birth control rules are part of a broader effort by conservatives inside and outside of the White House to prioritize what they call religious liberty.” These new regulations, which are expected to be released soon, would expand religious and moral exemptions for covering birth control in employer health insurance plans and would not require employers to provide any accommodations to employees still seeking birth control. Women’s health care advocates and prominent medical groups have already spoken out against an older version of the regulations that was blocked by several federal judges. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is one of many arguing that the regulations would violate the First Amendment. According to Schmidt, Becerra believes “that the birth control regulations would cause employers to use religious beliefs as a right to discriminate against employees in denying them coverage entitled to them in the Affordable Care Act.” A 2018 PRRI surveyfinds that Americans broadly believe employers ought to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost, whether they are publicly held corporations (66 percent), privately owned corporations (61 percent), religiously-affiliated hospitals (59 percent), religiously affiliated colleges and universities (54 percent), or privately owned small businesses (53 percent).
Confederate Flag Sees Renewed Interest in Unexpected Places
A recent article in The Washington Post looks at the growing popularity of Confederate paraphernalia throughout Western and Northern regions not traditionally associated with “Southern pride.” For some Americans, the flag has come to symbolize a sort of lost patriotism that they feel President Donald Trump has helped inspire. One retailer tells Washington Post reporter Frances Stead Sellers that sales from the North and West have gone from 5 percent to 20 percent of his overall business over the last several years. In 2017, PRRI found that “nearly six in ten (58 percent) Americans say that monuments to Confederate soldiers are symbols of Southern pride, compared to three in ten (30 percent) who say that they are symbols of racism.”
Cosmologist: Humanity is Doomed
In the fifteen years since British cosmologist Martin Rees published Our Final Hour, a book where he gave humanity a 50-50 chance of surviving the 21st century, the world has seen vast change. In his new book, On the Future: Prospects of Humanity, Rees adds to his earlier warning. According to Rees, the choices that global society make in the next several decades could determine whether human beings can survive. “I think the main threats are the ones we’re causing,” Rees tells Vox in a recent interview. “I’m an astronomer, but I don’t worry about asteroids barreling into the earth and destroying us, because we can see these things coming. I worry about human folly and human greed and human error. I worry much more about, say, a nuclear war then I do a natural disaster.”