Improving Public Policy
Australian government announces major ocean conservation funding
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced in April an AU$100 million conservation package that will fund a wide range of ocean programs, including marine parks. This significantly increases ocean funding across Australia’s exclusive economic zone. Pew contributed policy advice and built momentum in support of this package. It will create regional jobs, engage coastal and Indigenous communities and the private sector, deliver actions to improve environmental outcomes for species and ecosystems, and provide a clear pathway for working with all sectors to realize Australia’s ocean potential.
Virginia enacts auto-IRA retirement savings program for private sector workers
In April, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) signed a measure to create VirginiaSaves, a public-private partnership for private sector workers who do not have retirement benefits at their workplace. Under the program, workers at companies with 25 or more employees working at least 30 hours a week would be automatically enrolled in an IRA, with a small portion of their pay set aside each pay period. Employees could opt out at any time or change the amount they save. Seven other states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and Oregon—have similar retirement programs. Pew’s retirement savings project provided technical assistance during Virginia’s deliberations and will continue to advocate for extending the program to as many workers as possible.
Military and government leaders recruit nature to protect shoreline
A group of regional government and military officials launched an initiative in May to conserve 1 million acres of salt marsh stretching from northeast Florida to North Carolina. The group, Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability, known as SERPPAS, includes members of the U.S. Department of Defense and other federal agencies along with state environmental and natural resource officials from across the Southeast. SERPPAS, The Pew Charitable Trusts, local officials, and fishing, hunting, birding, and conservation organizations will build partnerships to protect salt marshes. The marshes in turn provide important habitat for fish, birds, and other animals, as well as help protect local property and economies from storm surges, erosion, and flooding.
Research shows states how to improve economic development programs
As part of a February webinar, experts from Pew’s state fiscal health project discussed recommendations for how states can improve economic development programs designed to benefit distressed areas. The webinar focused on recommendations from the project’s report “How States Can Direct Economic Development to Places and People in Need.” Pew’s research found that place-based initiatives often end up serving wealthy locations instead of disadvantaged ones, and, even when programs do reach the intended communities, they are often not well-suited to helping residents. The report and webinar, attended by high-level staff from 36 states, will help launch work to ensure that place-based economic development programs benefit the locations and people they were intended to aid.
Two Patagonia parks selected for IUCN Green List certification process
Two national parks in Patagonia, Chile, will seek International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Green List certification—the gold standard for protected areas. The Corporación Nacional Forestal, the Chilean government agency that oversees national parks and reserves, in April selected Cerro Castillo and Vicente Pérez Rosales national parks to pursue the designation. This is an important milestone for Pew’s Chilean Patagonia project to raise management standards for Patagonia’s national parks.
FEMA announces new risk rating system for flood insurance
The Federal Emergency Management Agency in April announced a new rating approach, called Risk Rating 2.0, for the National Flood Insurance Program. This updated methodology represents the most significant change to the program’s rating system in 50 years and will make flood insurance rates fairer, more transparent, and far more closely aligned with actual risk. It will apply to new federal flood insurance policies written later this year and become effective for existing policies renewed next year. The Pew-backed approach is a critical step toward establishing risk-based rates and will help put the National Flood Insurance Program on a path to fiscal sustainability.
Results First shares tips for policymakers on forming research partnerships
A March webinar hosted by Pew’s Results First initiative highlighted how state governments can connect agency leadership to researchers in their states to develop new insights that improve budget and policy decisions. Policymakers need credible research evidence to inform their decisions but often cannot easily access researchers because of time limits, misaligned incentives, limited resources, and the need for intermediaries. Panelists from New York and North Carolina, which partner with Results First, discussed their efforts to connect policymakers with researchers for an audience of approximately 50 policymakers from a range of states.
Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy, OceanMind partner to monitor marine sanctuary in Palau
Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy and OceanMind started a partnership in March to help combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing within the Palau National Marine Sanctuary. After years of effort by Pew, the local community, and government, the fully protected marine protected area—which is larger than California—went into effect in January 2020 and now safeguards a rich array of marine wildlife. OceanMind, a U.K.-based fisheries intelligence group, and Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy are working with the Palau government to provide real-time monitoring and intelligence analysis to help ensure that fishing and other harmful extractive activities do not occur within the sanctuary. Pew, OceanMind, and Satellite Applications Catapult previously partnered to develop the technology, which combines satellite monitoring and imagery data with comprehensive fishing vessel databases and oceanographic data.
Washington state protects marine waters from seabed mining
In April, the Washington state Legislature passed a prohibition on seabed mining for hard minerals within 3 miles of Washington shores. Pew was active in encouraging passage of this bipartisan bill, signed by Governor Jay Inslee (D) in May, to protect commercial and recreational fisheries, marine wildlife, and the communities and tribal nations that depend on them from the damage such mineral extraction would inflict. Seabed mining could harm sensitive habitats, destroy corals and sponges, and injure marine life.
Invigorating Civic Life
Research identifies characteristics of Philadelphia landlords
A February analysis of Philadelphia landlords by Pew’s Philadelphia research and policy initiative found that the vast majority of the city’s 55,000 landlords (73%) own only one or two units but that the 2% who own 25 or more units account for more than half of the market. Knowing who Philadelphia’s landlords are is important: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted rental property owners’ role in determining whether residents have safe and affordable places to live. In addition, small landlords have faced special challenges during the eviction moratorium, as they are less likely to have cash reserves, investors, or access to credit to cope with late or missed payments. City officials have expressed interest in using the data to target landlords for rental assistance and eviction diversion efforts. This research, which was done in partnership with local research and financial institution Reinvestment Fund, contributes to the Philadelphia research and policy initiative’s goal of providing research to identify areas of improvement for the city.
Philadelphia Museum of Art’s new galleries feature exhibition including Pew fellows’ works
The Philadelphia Museum of Art recently opened the exhibition “New Grit: Art & Philly Now,” which looks at the city’s contemporary art scene. Seventeen of the exhibition’s 25 artists are Pew Fellows in the Arts, including Alex Da Corte, David Hartt, Sharon Hayes, Roberto Lugo, and Eileen Neff. The exhibition, which opened in May, is the first in a new range of galleries comprising areas for modern and contemporary art and an emphasis on the multicultural origins and influences of the museum’s collection of American art up to 1850. The added 22,000 square feet of gallery space is part of the museum’s major renovation, designed by architect Frank Gehry and partially supported by Pew, and also includes a new open “forum” that allows visitors to peer through the building and connect with the outdoors, the reopening of a vaulted corridor that traverses the building, and improvements to lighting and HVAC systems.
Informing the Public
Black, Hispanic workforce remains low in STEM fields
An April Pew Research Center report on racial and gender representation in STEM fields found that Black and Hispanic workers remain underrepresented in the STEM workforce compared with their share of all workers. And although women make up a large majority of all workers in health-related jobs, they remain underrepresented in other STEM job clusters, such as the physical sciences, computing, and engineering. Current trends in STEM degree attainment appear unlikely to substantially narrow these gaps, according to a Center analysis of federal employment and education data. Black and Hispanic adults are less likely to earn degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math than in other degree fields, and they continue to make up a lower share of STEM graduates relative to their share of the adult population. And although women now earn a majority of all undergraduate and advanced degrees, they remain a small share of degree earners in fields such as engineering and computer science.
Partisan divisions grow deeper on some voting and election policies
A Pew Research Center report published in April examines Americans’ views of election policies and voting access in the U.S. The study finds that already sizable partisan divisions over many policies to make voting easier have grown wider over the past few years, largely because of changes in opinion among Republicans. For example, since 2018 there has been a decline in the share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who support automatically registering all eligible citizens to vote (38% in 2021 vs. 49% in 2018). In addition, the share of Republicans who say any voter should be allowed to vote early or absentee without a documented reason has fallen 19 percentage points (from 57% to 38%). Democrats and Democratic leaners are far more supportive of automatically registering all eligible citizens to vote (82%) and no-excuse early voting (84%); their views are virtually unchanged in recent years.
Poll reveals Americans’ concerns about China
The Pew Research Center released a report in March on U.S. public opinion of China. The report found that roughly 9 in 10 (89%) U.S. adults consider China a competitor or enemy rather than a partner, and 48% think limiting China’s power and influence should be a top foreign policy priority for the U.S. Americans have many specific concerns when it comes to China, and the sense that cyberattacks, job losses to China, China’s growing technological power, and other issues are major problems has grown over the past year. Half of Americans now say that China’s policy on human rights is a very serious problem for the U.S., up 7 percentage points since last year. And 9 in 10 Americans say China does not respect the personal freedoms of its people.
Americans favor prosecuting those who broke into the Capitol
In March, the Pew Research Center published a report finding that a wide majority of Americans (69%) say it is “very important” for federal law enforcement agencies to find and prosecute the people who broke into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Nearly half of Americans (47%) also say the criminal penalties that the rioters will receive are likely to be less severe than they should be given what happened, while 22% say the penalties will be more severe than they should be. About 3 in 10 (29%) expect the punishments will be about right. The public generally expresses confidence in federal law enforcement agencies to find and prosecute those who broke into the Capitol. Still, of those who say it is important for these agencies to complete this task, only 20% have a “great deal” of confidence that law enforcement will bring the rioters to justice, while another 48% have a “fair amount” of confidence.