If Polls Ruled: Guantanamo Forever?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series If Polls Ruled
A US Army guard checks on detainees at Guantanamo prison camp

A US Army guard checks on detainees at the Guantanamo prison camp. (Photo by Navy Petty Officer Michael Billings, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.)

In his State of the Union address, Obama reiterated his determination to close forever the Guantanamo Bay prison. If public opinion ruled, would we see the detention center finally closed?

Over a decade ago, the detention center was established at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station to hold and interrogate military prisoners considered to be especially dangerous. Over the years, it proved to be of dubious value for military intelligence, a venue for prisoner mistreatment, a terrorist propaganda and recruitment platform, and expensive.

Do Americans support Obama’s pledge to close the GTMO prison?

Public opinion is not on the president’s side. In four surveys since 2007, Gallup consistently found that the majority of Americans do not want the prison closed.

But Gallup asked this question in a complicated way, committing what survey researchers call a double-barreled question: essentially, one question that actually includes two questions but allows for only one answer.

Here’s the item: “As you may know, since 2001, the United States has held people from other countries who are suspected of being terrorists in a prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Do you think the United States should—or should not—close this prison and move some of the prisoners to U.S. prisons?”

Public opinion has been pretty steady on this issue. In 2014, 66% of Americans said we should not close the prison, while 29% said that we should. But we don’t know from these answers if the majority of Americans want the prison to remain open no matter what, or they want it to remain open because they don’t want the prisoners on American soil.

It seems to be the latter. In a 2009 Gallup poll, the question was asked about closing the prison but without any elaboration of what would happen to the prisoners. Forty-five said the prison should be closed, with 35% saying it should not.

Do you think the Guantanamo Bay detention center should be closed?
Should public opinion decide the matter?

Share your thoughts …

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Hopes for Children: Is our success determined by outside forces?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Hopes for Children
Pew chart on whether success is determined by outside forces

CLICK on this chart to visit the Pew website for more.

Have you ever heard of the self-serving bias?

It’s the tendency to attribute our successes to ourselves and to blame our failures on outside factors. For example, you got your dream job because you were supremely qualified for it. Or, you didn’t get your dream job because the interviewer was prejudiced.

Now, consider your children’s successes and failures. How do you explain them?

People around the world vary considerably in their views about the causes of success in life, according to new data from Pew’s global attitudes survey.

Among economically developed societies, Americans are the least likely to say that success in life is determined by forces outside our control—only 40% of Americans attribute success to outside factors.

At the other end, South Koreans are the most likely to attribute success to outside forces—almost three of four (74%) do so.

Are Americans the least likely of all nations to attribute success to outside factors? That would be a good guess, since our core values include self-reliance and individualism. And, it’s a pretty good guess, according to Pew, but not entirely correct.

Of the 44 countries Pew surveyed, only four had a lower percentage than the U.S. of those who agreed that success in life is determined by outside forces: Columbia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. The first three are considered emerging economies, while the fourth is classified as a developing economy.

To what do you attribute your successes and failures?

When children don’t live up to our hopes, do we blame them—or outside factors?

Hopes for Children: Why are parents in rich nations pessimistic?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Hopes for Children
CLICK THE CHART to visit the Pew website and learn more about these reports.

CLICK THE CHART to visit the Pew website and learn more about these reports.

Rising affluence usually translates into optimism about the future. One of the chief findings from the vast World Values Surveys is that economic development generally elevates happiness, well-being, and satisfaction with life.

Why, then, are so many people in affluent societies pessimistic about their children’s future?

The majority of Americans and Europeans don’t believe today’s children will be better off financially than their parents, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. In fact, the citizens of most of the countries with advanced economies are pretty gloomy about their children’s prospects. Conversely, the citizens of many emerging-market societies see a bright future for their children.

The reason for these differences is the rate of economic development. This is shown clearly in this graph from Pew. Those who live in nations with the fastest GDP growth are optimistic about their children’s future. China and Vietnam are prime examples. Nations with slow growth (like the US) or negative growth (like Italy or Spain) exhibit lots of pessimism.

Other factors matter, of course. Argentineans, Lebanese, and Tanzanians are experiencing fast GDP growth, but they are less optimistic than they should be, given their rate of economic change. Conversely, Ukrainians have experienced negative economic growth but they are more optimistic than nations with similar economic experiences.

How optimistic or pessimistic are you about the future prospects of today’s children?

Are your surprised that so many people in affluent societies are pessimistic about their children’s future?

Hopes for Children: What can kids do in our troubled world?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Hopes for Children
Malala Yousafzai's photo has been added to the colorful exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. This photo was posted to Wilkimedia Commons just hours after her Peace Prize was announced.

Malala Yousafzai’s photo has been added to the colorful exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. This photo was posted to Wilkimedia Commons just hours after her Peace Prize was announced.

What can a child do?

Plenty! That’s the word from the committee giving the next Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

At 17, Malala is the youngest-ever recipient of the prestigious prize. (You can read more about Malala and other extraordinary young women this week in our own Interfaith Peacemakers section.)

Children can be heroes—like 12-year-old Kamal Nepali, who rescued a two-year-old girl who had fallen into a gorge carved by the Seti River near Pokhara, Nepal. The child was trapped in a crevice so narrow that adults couldn’t reach her. Kamal was small enough to fit in, and he volunteered to do it. The adults lowered him into the darkness of the crevice, and he emerged later with the girl strapped to his back. (ListVerse magazine has more details about Nepali’s story.)

Pew chart on regions of the world and optimism about children 2014

Click this chart to read more at the Pew website.

From small acts of kindness to extraordinary events, children can do a lot in our troubled world.

Parents around the globe envision a better world for their children, according to new reports from Pew. Many people predict that their children will be better off than their parents.

But this optimism is not spread evenly around the world.

Can you guess which region is the most optimistic about their children’s future? Hands down, it’s Asia. Well over half (58%) of Asians are optimistic about their children’s future. Only 24% are not.

Which region is the most pessimistic? It’s Europe, according to the Pew Research Center. Sixty-five percent of Europeans predict that their children’s future will be bleaker than their parents’ experiences. Only 25% are optimistic about their children’s future.

What can a kid do?

What do you hope kids will achieve?

THIS WEEK’S OurValues series by sociologist Dr. Wayne Baker is great for sparking discussion among friends. Please, use our blue-“f” Facebook icons or envelope-shaped email icons to share this column with friends. Or, simply leave a Comment below.

Fear of War: Pope says ‘War is madness,’ but is it inevitable?

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Fear of War
Spread of ISIL in the Middle East

THE SPREAD OF ISIL, (aka The Islamic State) as of mid-September 2014: GRAY is controlled by ISIL; SALMON is controlled by the Syrian government; MINT GREEN is controlled by Syrian rebels; GOLD is controlled by Syrian Kurds; YELLOW-GREEN is controlled by Iraqi Kurds; MAGENTA is controlled by the Iraqi Government. (Map courtesy of Wikipedia.)

“War is madness,” said Pope Francis in a papal Mass to remember the victims of the First World War. The Mass took place two days ago in northeast Italy, a scene of intense combat between Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops in the war.

“Greed, intolerance, the lust for power—these motives underlie the decision to go to war,” said the pontiff, “and they are too often justified by an ideology; but first there is a distorted passion or impulse.” You can read the pope’s entire message here.

Just a few days prior, Obama addressed the nation, outlining his strategy to deal with the growing terrorist threat. The objective, he said, is “to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.”

Considering these and other international news stories in recent days: Do you fear a new round of war?

Many Americans feel unsafe. New polls report that more Americans feel unsafe now than at any time since 9/11. Almost half of Americans (47%) say the nation is less safe, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Almost all Americans (94%) say they have heard of the beheadings of the two American journalists, the poll reports—and this poll was taken before the claim of a third beheading, this one of a British journalist.

A clear majority of Americans (61%) favor military action against ISIS (which the administration calls ISIL, with the L that denotes “land” rather than “state”). These supporters say that military action is in the nation’s interest.

Four of ten Americans (40%) say that military action should be limited to air strikes, while about a third (34%) say that air strikes and combat troops should be involved. Only 15% say that we should abstain from military action.

Do you agree with the Pope that “war is madness”?
Do you think war is inevitable?
Do you fear a new round of war?

Star-Spangled Music Week: A rising terrorist threat this Patriot Day?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Star-Spangled Music Week

DISCUSSING TERRORISM AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL—Prior to his address to the nation on Wednesday evening President Barack Obama met with Vice President Joe Biden and with bicameral leadership of Congress. Participants include: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, released for public use.)

Patriot Day was created by an act of Congress as an annual day of remembrance in the weeks after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 people. The American flag is flown at half-staff on all U.S. government buildings and facilities around the world, and private citizens are urged to do the same at their homes.

Are you flying Old Glory at half-staff today?

The solemnity of Patriot Day 2014 occurs just before the 200th anniversary of the writing of our national anthem, penned by Francis Scott Key when he witnessed “Old Glory” flying over Fort McHenry after 25 hours of British bombardment. So far this week, we’ve looked at the lighthearted side of the bicentennial.

Today, we consider the renewed concerns about terror attacks on U.S. soil.

Prior to September 11, 2001, attacks by foreign terrorists on the U.S. homeland were believed to be impossible. 9/11 shattered that belief. Now, thirteen years later, Americans are very worried about new terror attacks, according to a new CNN/ORC poll, especially after the beheading of two American journalists by the jihadist group ISIS.

Do you think that ISIS poses a threat to the U.S.? Almost half of Americans (45%) say that ISIS poses a very serious threat to the U.S., with an additional 22% saying that ISIS is a fairly serious threat. Only 10% say the group is not a threat to the U.S.

Is terrorism the most important problem facing the country? Today, 14% of Americans say yes, putting terrorism at the top of their list of the most important problems we face. Two years ago, only 3% said terrorism was the most important problem.

Do you think ISIS has terrorists in the U.S. right now? Over seven of ten Americans (71%) say yes, ISIS terrorists are here. Just over a quarter (27%) of Americans disagree.

Will you flag the American Flag at half-staff today?
How much of a threat do you think ISIS is?

Doing Good: What 10 percent could do

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Doing Good
Chronicle of Philanthropy Stubborn 2 percent

Click this preview image to visit the Chronicle of Philanthropy and read the entire report.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: This week, Gayle Campbell is exploring the ways we think we’re doing good. Here is the third of her five parts …

10% is the number we often hear in conversations on charitable giving. The origins of the figure date back to ancient times, when kings or rulers often mandated civilians pay a tenth of their goods or income to be offered as a sacrifice to the gods, or maintain the kingdom. In many religious traditions today, members are asked to “tithe,” or give back a tenth of their income to God.

On average, however, Americans generally give away just 2 percent of their disposable income, according to Giving USA, an annual report conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. That’s a sizeable difference from the 10% giving level often suggested by charities and churches.

So, what could change if more of us gave our money away?

Giving What We Can, the organization we covered yesterday, gives us one example: “If the average US citizen gave 10% of his or her income to the Against Malaria Foundation, then each year it could distribute 700 mosquito nets, preventing 190 cases of malaria and 2.2 deaths. This would amount to saving 90 lives over the course of his or her life.”

Mike Holmes, of TitheHacker.com, points out that if all Christians tithed 10%, there would be an additional $165 billion for churches to use and distribute, and over the course of five years, hunger, starvation and death from preventable disease could be relieved, illiteracy eliminated and the world’s water and sanitation crisis solved.

Curious what kind of difference you could make by giving 10%? Check out this calculator to see how many lives you could save by donating 10%.

We want to hear from you!
Do you prioritize charitable giving in your finances? What keeps you motivated?
Are you surprised to hear what the world could look like if everyone gave?


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