Monday, December 17, 2018

Pew’s 'striking findings' from 2018

Pew Research has long been the go-to place for statistics on what the world thinks about issues, policies, and so much more. Their data is so good that when they label a report, “18 striking findings from 2018”, it’s hard to ignore. In fact, it’s good not to.

Many of their findings this year were surprising to me, including the one that the number of illegal immigrants to the USA continues to fall, and has been since its peak in 2007. In fact, it’s now as low as it was in 2004. It’s not the statistic itself, it’s that so many people believe the exact opposite is true—that the number is rising. Most of those who believe that support the current regime, but I’m sure far too many who don’t also believe it.

A similarly not-at-all-surprising statistic was that Americans 18-49 were far better at identifying factual statements as factual, and opinion statements as opinions, than those who ere 50+. Moreover, this held true regardless of ideological bend of the statements. The current regime’s strongest, most hardcore supporters tend to be low-information and/or more poorly informed than people who don’t watch any news at all, and most of them also tend to be older. I have no way of knowing whether that’s coincidence or not.

There are so many other stats that are interesting for one reason or another that it’s impossible to single them out. I’m sure they picked 18 because it’s 2018, but if they were as interested in clickbait as news organisations are, they’d have had fewer and picked an inflammatory headline, something like “5 most shocking findings of 2019”. I like their way much better.

But, then, that figures: I don’t have trouble telling the difference between facts and opinion, and I’m not too keen on supposed news organisations blurring that line.

I wonder what striking findings they’ll tell us about next year. I can’t wait to find out.

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