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Ten Notable Findings in 2019
David Tigabu, PRRI Staff,

In a year marked by continued political, social, and cultural evolution, PRRI published a wave of surveys, Spotlight analyses, newsletters, and audio products documenting as well as giving context to much of this change. Below, we at PRRI selected our 10 most salient findings for 2019 — discoveries that will almost certainly play a role in how the next decade shapes up.

The Fox News Effect”

One of the biggest stories in American politics over the last decade has been gridlock and partisanship across the political landscape. One important factor in this dynamic has been the role of partisan media in facilitating this polarization. In PRRI’s 2019 American Values Survey, we found that the role of Fox News in particular is correlated with heightened support for President Trump. A majority (55%) of Republicans for whom Fox News is their primary news source say there is nothing Trump could do to lose their approval, compared to only 29% of Republicans who do not cite Fox News as their primary news source.

Increased Support for Religiously Based Service Refusals

In a survey that came as a surprise to many, PRRI found that three in ten (30%) Americans say they think it should be permissible for a small business owner in their state to refuse to provide services to gay or lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs, an increase from 16% in 2014. The survey found an increase in religiously based service refusals for Jews (12% in 2014, 19% in 2019), African Americans (10% in 2014, 15% in 2019), and Atheists (15% in 2014, 24% in 2019).

Frequency of Interactions With Diversity

PRRI/The Atlantic’s third installment in a series of surveys, Democracy in Crisis: Fate of Pluralism, found a number of findings concerning Americans’ interactions with people unlike them. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Americans who have at least some interactions with people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds say they have these interactions in the workplace, and 46% say they have them in friendship circles. Smaller numbers say they have these interactions at a school their child is attending (23%), within their family (22%), at local civic gatherings such as club or PTA meetings (17%), at religious services (14%), or at a school they are attending (7%). In other words, outside of involuntary institutions like the workplace, the frequency of interactions that Americans are having with diverse are more unusual than they are common.

Impeachment Trends

With the House of Representatives recently voting to impeach President Trump and a Senate trial looming, impeachment is sure to dominate much of the media landscape for 2020. PRRI has tracked opinions over impeachment over the last several years. We’ve found that prior to the launch of the House impeachment inquiry, 47% of Americans said that Trump should be impeached and removed from office, compared to a majority (53%) of Americans who disagreed. Support for impeaching Trump has grown throughout his presidency — from 30% in February 2017, to 40% in October 2017, and to 47% in October 2018 — but it has remained steady over the last year.

Universal Support for Legality of Abortion Across Racial/Ethnic Groups

PRRI’s 2018 American Values Atlas examined support for abortion and reproductive rights and found that majorities of most racial and ethnic groups believe abortion should be legal. With the notable exception of Hispanic Americans, majorities of every race or ethnicity believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (60%) and African Americans (58%) are most supportive of abortion legality. Native Americans (53%) and white Americans (55%) have the slimmer majorities that support legal abortion in most or all cases, with around four in ten of each group opposing legality (39% and 41%, respectively). Hispanic Americans are the most divided, with slightly more opposition (48%) than support (45%).

Gap Among California AAPI on the American Dream

In PRRI’s final survey of the year, we partnered with AAPI Data to explore the experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) living in California — the most extensive of its kind to date. A key finding from the report was the different outlook that U.S.-born AAPI and foreign-born AAPI have when it comes to the ‘American Dream — the idea that if you work hard, you will get ahead. We found that AAPI Californians who are born outside the U.S. are more likely than those born inside the U.S. to believe the American Dream still holds true (69% vs. 43%). Groups with a lower proportion of foreign-born members — such as Japanese, Hmong, and NHPI — express the lowest levels of belief that the American Dream still holds true today.

Bipartisan Agreement on the Citizenship Question

For much of the last year, the Trump administration has been locked in a legal fight over the 2020 census, pushing for a citizenship question to be added for the sake of accuracy, as critics have derided the move as politically motivated. We found that Americans, regardless of partisan stripe, do not support the Trump administration’s argument. More than three-quarters of Republicans (81%) and Democrats (77%) and approximately seven in ten independents (71%) agree that it is at least somewhat likely that the Census will not get an accurate count because of this question.

Understanding of the word ‘Socialism’

Socialism, a word long-considered taboo in the American lexicon, may not have the stigma today as it once did. PRRI found that a slim majority (52%) believe socialism is “a system in which a government provides citizens with health insurance, retirement support, and access to free higher education,” rather than as a form of government control. A majority (65%) of Democrats agree with that perspective, and 57% of young people (18-29) do too.

Increasing Support for Transgender Rights

American attitudes have changed significantly in recent years on the issue of transgender rights. In a comprehensive survey examining where the nation is on a range of questions pertaining to transgender people, PRRI discovered more than six in ten (62%) Americans say they have become more supportive toward transgender rights compared to their views five years ago. By contrast, one-quarter (25%) say their views are more opposed compared to five years ago. With the exception of conservative Republicans, every ideological group reported that they have become more supportive of transgender rights in the last five years.

Cutting Taxes on Corporations Universally Unpopular  

It’s difficult to find many issues in which majorities of Democrats, independents, and Republicans agree, but not giving corporations tax cuts registers is one rare example. PRRI learned that a majority (69%) of Americans oppose or strongly oppose cutting taxes for corporations, compared to roughly one-third (29%) who favor or strongly favor it. Nearly eight in ten Democrats (78%) and seven in ten Independents (71%) oppose this policy, compared to 53% of Republicans.