Smart Charts

The State of Abortion, 40 Years After Roe v. Wade

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on Jan. 22, 2013, the Guttmacher Institute — a sexual and reproductive health policy nonprofit — has created five infographics on the state of abortion in America.

Some highlights: By age 45, one in three women will have an abortion. The majority of these — about 58 percent — will happen in their twenties. About 60 percent will already have at least one child.

Unintended pregnancy rates are rising among poor people and falling among higher-income people, but abortion rates are still about five times higher among people living below the poverty line. Rates are also significantly higher among people of color than among white people. MORE

The Impasse Created by Filibuster Abuse

With the new 113th Congress comes the possibility of reform, but the just departed 112th Congress was historically unproductive. As shown in this chart from a November report by the Brennan Center for Justice, the Senate had passed a record low of 2.8 percent of all bills introduced.

Senate Bills passed as a percentage of all bills introduced.

(Brennan Center for Justice)

This impasse is largely created by filibusters, which are unique to the Senate, and have become so common as to create a situation in which to even be voted on nearly all major legislation requires a 60-vote supermajority, not the customary, 51-vote simple majority. MORE

The 113th Congress: By the Numbers

Bloomberg Businessweek produced this colorful chart detailing what was gained and lost in terms of the occupations, genders, sexual orientation, religious affiliations — and mustaches — of our representatives in the transition from the 112 to the 113 Congress. MORE

The Partisan History of the Debt Ceiling

We wrote this blog post about the debt ceiling in January. As yet another debt ceiling showdown looms, we thought a look back at the history of these (increasingly bitter) debates might be in order once again. We didn’t have to change a word.


Ronald Reagan gives a televised address from the Oval Office, outlining his plan for Tax Reduction Legislation in July 1981.

Ronald Reagan gives a televised address from the Oval Office, outlining his plan for Tax Reduction Legislation in July 1981. (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

As we head toward what will likely be another rancorous debt ceiling debate, the writers at The Guardian’s Datablog have updated their great series of charts that tell the ceiling’s story.

Since 1944, America’s debt ceiling has been increased 94 times. Up until the mid-90s, it was a pretty routine part of congressional business. But in the fall of 1995, Republican House leaders Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey and John Boehner announced that within seven years they wanted $245 billion in tax cuts, entitlement reform and a balanced budget. President Clinton refused to give in and Americans dealt with the most serious government shutdown in U.S. history. In early 1996, when Moody’s announced they were considering downgrading America’s debt rating, the Republicans finally folded.

“The most crucial difference between Clinton’s debt limit battle and the current crisis is that, in 1996, the Republicans were bluffing. No Republican seriously considered defaulting on the debt to be a viable option,” Kara Brandeisky wrote in The New Republic.

A decade and a half later, in 2011, the debates created a stalemate that lead to an actual credit downgrade. (Clinton said that if he were still president, he would use the 14th Amendment — which many think makes the concept of debt ceilings unconstitutional — to bypass Congress. President Obama, a former professor of constitutional law, has so far resisted that option.) MORE

After Newtown, Gun Background Checks Skyrocket

Joanna Baginska, a 4th grade teacher, aims a 40 cal. Sig Sauer during concealed-weapons training for the teachers. Behind her, Clark Aposhian, president of the Utah Shooting Sport Council, demonstrates with a plastic gun. The Utah Shooting Sports Council offered six hours of training in handling concealed weapons on Dec. 27, 2012, in West Valley City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

In order to buy guns, in December more than 2.7 million Americans applied for the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check. That beat the previous record — set only a month earlier, in November — when 2 million Americans applied.

In total, 19.5 million people filed for gun background checks in 2012. That, too, was a record — an increase of 3 million from the previous year. The chart below shows statistics for the last four years paired with the dates of some of the more devastating mass shootings that happened during the same period.

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2012 Looks to be the Warmest Year Ever on Record

This year is shaping up to be the warmest on record for the continguous United States — by a lot. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s state of the climate analysis found that January through November 2012 was the warmest January through November on record for the continental U.S. Those 11 months were 3.3°F above the 20th century average, and 1° above the previous record. (August 2011 through July 2012 was the warmest 12-month period ever.)

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Do Politicians Read the Emails You Send Them?

obama contact composite

It sounds like the setup to a joke: How do you get a politician’s attention?

But it’s a question worth asking. The Internet has made it easier for constituents to send messages to the politicians who represent them — messages to Congress quadrupled between 1995 and 2004 — but it’s less certain that anyone is actually reading those messages.

Between 2007 and 2010, University of Bologna and NYU-Florence political scientist Christian Vaccari sent emails to 142 political parties and presidential candidates in seven western democracies, including the U.S., to gauge how each responded. He sent two emails to each party and candidate: One asked for the party or candidate’s position on taxes, the other asked for information about how to get involved as a volunteer.

At a conference on digital-era campaigning in London last month, Vaccari reported that only one in five of his emails received a reply within one business day; the majority of the emails, almost two-thirds, went unanswered. Vaccari found that, in general, parties tended to respond more often than individual candidates, and progressive parties tended to respond more often than conservative parties. MORE

As Corporate Profits Soar, Corporate Taxes and Wages Don’t

Last week’s quarterly Gross Domestic Product (GDP) report showed corporate profits soaring to record levels, reaching their greatest percentage of GDP in history. But those profits have not translated to increased U.S. government revenue from corporate income taxes, nor have they meant higher wages for Americans, currently at the lowest percentage of GDP since before WWII.

chart from The Century Foundation

(The Century Foundation)

For years, the corporate income tax as a share of total U.S. government revenues paralleled the rise and fall of corporate earnings, and vice versa. But in recent years that correlation has been broken. The Century Foundation’s Benjamin Landy attributes this to corporations becoming more adept at tax avoidance. MORE

Why Are Asian Americans Increasingly Voting for Democrats?

Between 2008 and 2012, Asians overtook Latinos as the largest immigrant group per year. (Pew Research Center)

During the 2012 election cycle, campaigns and pundits paid a lot of attention to the Latino vote and the decisive role it could (and did) play in an Obama victory. There focused much less on Asian Americans. But between 2008 and 2012, Asians surpassed Latinos as the most quickly growing immigrant group, and, like Latinos, they voted for Obama by a margin of about three to one.

Some columnists have pointed out that Asian Americans should have been easy for the Republican Party to woo. Writing for Slate, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner argues that, though Asian Americans are generally satisfied with the direction in which the country is moving and are generally in favor gay marriage and reproductive rights, other issues could saw them in a more conservative direction.

“[O]ne might expect these liberal leanings to count for less than the desire of the nation’s highest-income, best-educated, and most conventionally familial demographic group for lower taxes, fiscal austerity, family values, and an end to affirmative action, which benefits blacks and Hispanics at the expense of Asians. And although most Asian Americans are first- or second-generation Americans, they are not the targets of Republican hostility to immigrants; the target is illegal Mexican immigrants, and from elsewhere in Central America.”

In a blog post for The Monkey Cage and an opinion piece for the LA Times, UC Riverside Political Science Professor S. Karthick Ramakrishnan points out that Asian Americans have gradually shifted to support the Democratic Party over the last two decades. In 1992, 31 percent of Asian Americans voted for the Democratic candidate, Bill Clinton. In 2008, 62 percent voted for Obama, and by 2012, that figure was up to 73 percent. Posner’s piece and others like it, he said, do not take the causes of that shift into account. MORE

A Look at the Numbers Behind Obamacare

Some state governors have submitted requests to President Obama's Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, right, asking for more information about how the Medicaid expansion will affect their state. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

When the Supreme Court handed down its decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) last June 28, a handful of conservative governors were quick to declare that their states would opt out of the Medicaid expansion program. The majority of governors, however, decided to wait until after the election to make up their minds. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured released an analysis yesterday — an update of a similar analysis from May 2010 — to help state politicians with that decision.

Although Obamacare will have a hefty price tag, most of the burden will be carried by the federal government. If every state accepted the Medicaid expansion, an additional 21.3 million people would be enrolled by 2022, increasing the number of Americans on Medicaid by 41 percent. In combination with other ACA provisions, it would decrease the total amount of uninsured Americans by 48 percent. States will also see an increase in Medicaid expenses, as the chart below demonstrates, over the next decade a state’s decision to opt in or out of the expansion will not significantly increase state Medicaid spending.

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Survey Says: “Money Undermines Democracy”

A copy of a campaign finance report from the super PAC "Vermonters First." (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

During this election, we saw Democratic politicians oppose super PACs and other political nonprofits — but still accept help from them — while Republican politicians largely embraced the new groups, many created by the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

But voters aren’t so polarized on the issue. A report released yesterday by the Public Campaign Action Fund, a nonprofit focused on campaign finance reform, says Americans across the political spectrum are in favor of scaling back the amount of money going into campaigns. Another indication of the same sentiment can be found in Colorado and Montana, where ballot initiatives supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United were approved by an overwhelming percentage of the electorate — 74 percent in Colorado, 75 percent in Montana.

“This is the one area where Democrats and Republicans — people who voted for Obama or Romney, people who voted for Democrats or Republicans — are very close together in their views,” said Democratic strategist Stan Greenberg, whose polling organization worked with the Public Campaign Action Fund to survey voters. “People believe in limits [on spending]. It’s almost a universal position in the country — that there should be limits.”

See charts after the jump.

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Women Make Historic Gains in the U.S. Senate

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., waves to supporters after making her a victory speech in Madison, Wisconsin. Baldwin defeated former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, to become the nation's first openly gay senator. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

The 113th U.S. Congress — which convenes in January — will have a record number of female senators thanks to Tuesday’s elections. For the first time in history, women will hold 20 of the 100 seats in the Senate. Tammy Baldwin, the newly elected senator from Wisconsin, will also be the first openly gay senator. The gender shift was part of a larger shift which also saw African-American and Latino voters turn out in record numbers to support Democratic candidates. The infographic below, created by NerdWallet, profiles the new senators, but also shows the gap between the U.S. female population and female representation in Washington, D.C.

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The Newest Voter ID Laws Map

The New York Times has a new infographic map that looks at the electoral power of states in which voter ID laws have been proposed or enacted over the past two years. Rather than using geography, each state is represented by a box — the color of the box denotes the status of the law and the size of the box reflects the proportion of votes the state casts to the electoral college. Five swing states — Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Iowa — have new laws and control 62 electoral votes (or 23 percent of the votes necessary to win).

See the entire map at the Data Points blog on The New York Times.

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