Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Music evolves as composers, performers, and consumers favor some musical variants over others. To investigate the role of consumer selection, we constructed a Darwinian music engine consisting of a population of short audio loops that sexually reproduce and mutate. This population evolved for 2,513 generations under the selective influence of 6,931 consumers who rated the loops’ aesthetic qualities. We found that the loops quickly evolved into music attributable, in part, to the evolution of aesthetically pleasing chords and rhythms. Later, however, evolution slowed. Applying the Price equation, a general description of evolutionary processes, we found that this stasis was mostly attributable to a decrease in the fidelity of transmission. Our experiment shows how cultural dynamics can be explained in terms of competing evolutionary forces.
Public Opinion on Sentencing and Corrections Policy in America (PDF)
Source: Pew Center on the States
1. American voters believe too many people are in prison and the nation spends too much on imprisonment.
2. Voters overwhelmingly support a variety of policy changes that shift non-violent offenders from prison to more effective, less expensive alternatives.
3. Support for sentencing and corrections reforms (including reduced prison terms) is strong across political parties, regions, age, gender, and racial/ethnic groups.
Source: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan
As the nation suffers through a summer of record-shattering heat, a University of Michigan report finds that Generation X is lukewarm about climate change—uninformed about the causes and unconcerned about the potential dangers.
“Most Generation Xers are surprisingly disengaged, dismissive or doubtful about whether global climate change is happening and they don’t spend much time worrying about it,” said Jon D. Miller, author of “The Generation X Report.” (Read and download the full report.)
The new report, the fourth in a continuing series, compares Gen X attitudes about climate change in 2009 and 2011, and describes the levels of concern Gen Xers have about different aspects of climate change, as well as their sources of information on the subject.
“We found a small but statistically significant decline between 2009 and 2011 in the level of attention and concern Generation X adults expressed about climate change,” Miller said. “In 2009, about 22 percent said they followed the issue of climate change very or moderately closely. In 2011, only 16 percent said they did so.”
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
Republicans and Democrats find little to agree on these days, but they have some similar reactions to the 2012 presidential campaign. Nearly identical percentages of Republicans and Democrats say the election will be exhausting. On the positive side, there also is widespread partisan agreement that the campaign will be informative.
The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted June 7-17 among 2,013 adults, finds that just 49% expect the election to be exciting. Nearly six-in-ten Democrats (59%) say the election will be exciting, compared with 51% of Republicans and just 41% of independents.
The expectation that the election will be exhausting is in line with perceptions of the campaign so far. Most Americans say the campaign has been too long and dull (56% each), while 53% say it has been too negative. At the same time, an overwhelming majority (79%) views the presidential campaign as important.
Comparable percentages of Republicans, Democrats and independents say that the campaign has been too long and too negative. And more than eight-in-ten Republicans (85%) and Democrats (83%) say the campaign is important, as do 77% of independents.
Americans Upbeat About Local Economy, Down on the WorldSource: Gallup
Americans become progressively less positive about economic conditions the farther away from home they look. Forty-nine percent rate economic conditions in their local area as excellent or good, but that drops to 25% when rating the U.S. economy, and to 13% when assessing the world as a whole.
Global Opinion of Obama Slips, International Policies FaultedSource: Pew Global Attitudes Project
Global approval of President Barack Obama’s policies has declined significantly since he first took office, while overall confidence in him and attitudes toward the U.S. have slipped modestly as a consequence.
Europeans and Japanese remain largely confident in Obama, albeit somewhat less so than in 2009, while Muslim publics remain largely critical. A similar pattern characterizes overall ratings for the U.S. – in the EU and Japan, views are still positive, but the U.S. remains unpopular in nations such as Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan.
Meanwhile, support for Obama has waned significantly in China. Since 2009, confidence in the American president has declined by 24 percentage points and approval of his policies has fallen 30 points. Mexicans have also soured on his policies, and many fewer express confidence in him today.
The Obama era has coincided with major changes in international perceptions of American power – especially U.S. economic power. The global financial crisis and the steady rise of China have led many to declare China the world’s economic leader, and this trend is especially strong among some of America’s major European allies. Today, solid majorities in Germany (62%), Britain (58%), France (57%) and Spain (57%) name China as the world’s top economic power.
Even though many think American economic clout is in relative decline, publics around the world continue to worry about how the U.S. uses its power – in particular its military power – in international affairs.
There remains a widespread perception that the U.S. acts unilaterally and does not consider the interests of other countries. In predominantly Muslim nations, American anti-terrorism efforts are still widely unpopular. And in nearly all countries, there is considerable opposition to a major component of the Obama administration’s anti-terrorism policy: drone strikes. In 17 of 20 countries, more than half disapprove of U.S. drone attacks targeting extremist leaders and groups in nations such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Americans are the clear outliers on this issue – 62% approve of the drone campaign, including most Republicans (74%), independents (60%) and Democrats (58%).
American’s Views on the Supreme Court Case Mirror Their Views on the Health Reform Law; The Public Expects Parts Of The Affordable Care Act To Continue Whatever The Court Rules
The requirement that nearly everyone obtain health insurance or pay a fine has long been Americans’ least favorite part of the health reform law, and their views on what the Supreme Court should do about that key provision, known as the “individual mandate,” mirror that sentiment, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll.The poll finds that half of all Americans (51%) think the Court should rule the mandate unconstitutional and about the same number (53%) expect the justices to do so. Those views about what the Court should do reflect public opinion about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) more generally. Those who favor the law say two-to-one (50% to 26%) that the Court should uphold the mandate, and those who oppose the law say twelve-to-one (83% to 7%) that it should strike the mandate down. Americans have not yet tuned in to the high court case, with more than six in ten saying they are not following it closely. And many are confused — 42 percent either think the Court has overturned the law or do not know whether it has.The public also does not see the mandate as the linchpin of the entire law. Sixty-two percent say other parts of the law still will be implemented if the Court rules the mandate unconstitutional, compared to 28 percent who say such a ruling will scuttle the whole effort. The poll also finds substantial public skepticism towards the Court; about as many people say the justices’ ideological views will play a major role in their decision (51%) as say their analysis and interpretation of the law (54%) will play a major role.These and other findings of the March Kaiser Health Tracking Poll come just weeks before the Court is set to hear oral arguments in the legal challenges to the health reform law, which turns two years old on March 23rd and over which public opinion has been chronically divided. At the two year mark the public is almost perfectly split: 41 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of the law this month, while 40 percent hold an unfavorable one — not terribly different from the 46 percent who favored it and 40 percent who did not in April 2010. Opinions divide sharply along partisan lines, with Republicans disliking the law (75% have an unfavorable view this month), Democrats favoring it (66% favorable) and independents more divided (40% favorable vs. 42% unfavorable).
One out of five American consumers used their mobile phone to access their bank account, credit card, or other financial account in the 12 months ending in January 2012 and an additional one out of five indicated they would likely use mobile banking at some point in the future, according to a Federal Reserve Board survey (2.5 MB PDF).The survey’s findings suggest that the use of mobile banking is poised to expand further over the next year, with usage possibly increasing to one out of three mobile phone users by 2013. However, the survey indicates that many consumers remain skeptical of the benefit of mobile banking and the level of security associated with the technology.The use of mobile banking is highly correlated with age, according to the survey results. People between 18 and 29 account for approximately 44 percent of mobile banking users, relative to 22 percent of all mobile phone users. Conversely, people age 60 and over account for only 6 percent of all mobile banking users, but 24 percent of mobile phone users. The survey showed a significantly higher level of mobile banking uptake among African Americans (16 percent) and Hispanics (17 percent), relative to 11 percent and 13 percent of mobile phone users, respectively.The widespread use of mobile technology has the potential to expand access to financial services for previously underserved populations. Underbanked individuals (people with bank accounts but who use check cashers, payday lenders, or payroll cards) make relatively heavy use of mobile banking, according to the survey. Of this group, 29 percent used mobile banking in the year ending in January 2012.The survey found that the most common mobile banking activities are consumers checking their account balances or monitoring recent transactions. Less frequently used mobile banking functions include making online bill payments from a bank account, locating an in-network automated teller machine, and depositing a check by phone.The majority of consumers who have a mobile phone but do not use mobile banking said they either had no need for these services or expressed security concerns. When asked to rate the security of mobile banking, non-users were more likely to report that they believed it was unsecure or that they simply didn’t know how secure the technology was.
FTC Issues Report on the Experiences of Victims Recovering from Identity Theft
Source: Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission issued a staff report summarizing the results of a survey of identity theft victims who were asked to describe their experiences dealing with consumer reporting agencies and, more generally, exercising their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as amended by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), to recover from identity theft. The survey showed that most of the respondents were generally satisfied with their experiences, but the report also noted areas for improvement..
According to the report, Using FACTA Remedies: An FTC Staff Report on a Survey of Experience of Identity Theft Victims, the survey showed:
- Sixty-eight percent of the survey respondents were somewhat or very satisfied with their overall experiences with the consumer reporting agencies, but many consumers said it was difficult to reach a live person.
- Less than half of the respondents were aware of most of their rights under FACTA before they contacted the consumer reporting agencies.
- Some respondents complained about feeling pressured to buy additional identity theft monitoring products when they called the consumer reporting agencies.
The report concluded that:
- The consumer reporting agencies may need to make it easier for consumers to reach a live person;
- The FTC and other enforcement agencies should do more to educate the public about their rights under FACTA; and
- The FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should use their respective authorities to address the consumer reporting agencies’ practices related to selling identity theft monitoring products or services when they are contacted by identity theft victims.
+ Full Report (PDF)
Public Knowledge About Polar Regions Increases While Concerns Remain Unchanged
Source: Carsey Institute (University of New Hampshire)
The authors of this brief conduct the first comparative analysis of the polar questions that were part of the National Opinion Research Center’s 2006 and 2010 General Social Survey. Developed by scientists at the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs, these questions covered topics such as climate change, melting ice and rising sea levels, and species extinction. The authors report that the public’s knowledge about the north and south polar regions significantly improved between 2006 and 2010–before and after the International Polar Year. In addition, respondents who know more about science in general, and polar facts specifically, tend to be more concerned about polar changes. More knowledgeable respondents also tend to favor reserving the Antarctic for science, rather than opening it for commercial development.
+ Full Document (PDF)
As U.S. policymakers consider tax policy and how to resolve federal budget deficits, more than eight in 10 U.S. households believe the current tax incentives to encourage retirement saving should be preserved, according to new research released today by the Investment Company Institute (ICI). The research is based on data collected in a survey of 3,000 U.S. households in November and December 2011.The ICI study—America’s Commitment to Retirement Security: Investor Attitudes and Actions—found that such agreement was consistently high across various demographic and financial characteristics. Households were asked their views on changing the tax incentives for retirement plans and whether saving incentives for retirement should be a national priority. Specifically, the survey found:Households overwhelmingly support maintaining the tax incentives for retirement saving. Eighty-five percent of all U.S. households disagreed when asked whether the tax advantages of DC accounts should be eliminated. Eighty-three percent opposed any reduction in workers’ account contribution limits. Among households owning defined contribution (DC) accounts or individual retirement accounts (IRAs), nearly nine in 10 disagreed with eliminating or reducing the tax incentives.A vast majority of households agree that preserving the current retirement savings incentives should be a national priority. Eighty-eight percent of households owning DC accounts or IRAs agree with this policy priority, while 76 percent of households without DC accounts or IRAs agree.“It is clear that the current tax incentives to encourage Americans to build a nest egg in retirement accounts are effective and command the overwhelming support of the American public,” said Paul Schott Stevens, ICI president and CEO. “Our latest household survey shows that a great majority of U.S. households believe, even in an era of necessary federal budget reforms, that preserving these incentives should be a national priority.”
2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index (PDF)Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
In the quarter century from 1986 through 2010, the lives of 1,045,016 men, women, and children have ended violently as the result of motor vehicle crashes in the United States. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children, teens, and young adults up to age 34. 1 Statistics from the United States Department of Transportation indicate that 32,885 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2010. 2 Although this represents the fewest people killed in crashes in a single year since 1950, it also represents an average of 90 lives needlessly cut short on an average day as the result of crashes on our roads.
Since 2006, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has been sponsoring research to better understand traffic safety culture. 4-8 The Foundation’s long-term term vision is to create a “social climate in which traffic safety is highly valued and rigorously pursued.” 9 In 2008, the AAA Foundation conducted the first annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, 6 a nationally-representative telephone survey, to begin to assess a few key indicators of the degree to which traffic safety is valued and is being pursued.
As in previous years, this fourth annual Traffic Safety Culture Index finds that in some ways, Americans do appear to value safe travel and desire a greater level of safety than they now experience. For example, 70% of Americans say that the government should give more attention to making roads and highways safer, which is similar to the number that said the government should do more to increase the fuel economy of cars and take measures to reduce traffic congestion—issues that typically receive far more media attention and public debate than road safety.
On the other hand, this survey also highlights some aspects of the current traffic safety culture that might be characterized most appropriately as a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude that exists behind the wheel. For example, substantial numbers of drivers say that it is completely unacceptable to drive 10 mph over the speed limit on residential streets yet admit having done that in the past month.
This report presents the results of the AAA Foundation’s fourth annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, conducted from June 6 through June 28, 2011 by Knowledge Networks for the AAA Foundation with a sample of 3,147 U.S. residents ages 16 and older using a web-enabled probability-based panel that is representative of the United States population.