PEW RESEARCH CENTRE - Is it really Unbiased?
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By TNVDesk-

PEW RESEARCH CENTRE - Is it really Unbiased?
Source: Google Images

The Pew Research Centre is a research institution focusing on questions of public policy and national culture. It is a subsidiary of the Pew Charitable Trusts and claims, it is a nonpartisan fact tank that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world through public opinion polling, social science research, reporting news, analyzing news coverage, and holding forums and briefings. The Centre conducts research in seven areas. Each section of the Pew Research Centre includes analytical reports and polling.

The Centre was founded in 1998 as the Pew Research Centre for People and the Press. In 2004, after the Pew Charitable Trusts became a public charity, the Pew Research Centre for People and the Press was amalgamated with the Project for Excellence in Journalism,, the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the Pew Hispanic Centre, and the Pew Global Attitudes Project as the Pew Research Centre.

History of PEW Charitable Trust

The Pew Charitable Trusts, an independent nonprofit, is the sole beneficiary of seven individual charitable funds established between 1948 and 1979 by two sons and two daughters of Sun Oil Company founder Joseph Newton Pew and his wife, Mary Anderson Pew. The original Pew Memorial Foundation was a grantmaking organization that made donations anonymously.

Early priorities included cancer research, the Red Cross and a pioneering project to assist historically black colleges. In 1957, the Foundation was restructured and its assets were transferred to The Pew Memorial Trust. Between 1957 and 1979, six other trusts were created, representing the personal and complementary philanthropic interests of four siblings: J. Howard Pew, Mary Ethel Pew, Joseph Newton Pew, Jr., and Mabel Pew Myrin.

Pew’s public opinion research began in 1995 when the Times Mirror Centre became the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press. Pew kept the center going with a three-year $4.5 million grant and re-named the organization the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press in 1998.

In 2004, the Pew Research Centre was created as a separate operating subsidiary, bringing together all of work on public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis, and other empirical social science research.

The Pew Charitable Trusts is a global non-governmental organization with three broad goals:

1. Improve public policy by conducting rigorous analysis, linking diverse interests to pursue common cause and insisting on tangible results.

2. Inform the public by providing useful data that illuminate the issues and trends shaping our world.

3. Invigorate civic life by encouraging democratic participation and strong communities.

Is PEW really Non Partisan?

The organization is always highlighting their “non-partisan” approach to policy influence and research. They claim that “through our non-partisan reporting and research, advocacy, and technical assistance we help cities and states deliver better results by investing in programs that provide the strongest returns.”

But that’s not entirely true.

Pew Charitable Trust has always been political since its founding in 2003.

According to what Martin M. Wooster has written in his book ‘How Great Philanthropists Failed and You Can Succeed at Protecting Your Legacy’ the Pews, an affluent Philadelphian family, established seven foundations in the 1940s as a way to retain control of the family companies Sun Oil (Sunoco), Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock without having to pay inheritance taxes.

The family were Republicans and operated along conservative values. Two of the sons, J. Howard Pew Jr. and Joseph N. Pew Jr., were more religiously and politically active; Joseph Jr. gave copiously to revitalize the Pennsylvania Republican Party and funded republican presidential campaigns, J. Howard Pew also gave to religious efforts in order to better the Christian ministry.

According to Wooster, in 2004, Trust gave $9 million to a nonprofit called New Voter Project that is known for its hostility toward Republicans.

Pew charitable trust also abandoned its original geographic jurisdiction in 2009. No longer do they center on helping Philadelphia charities with their funds in the way the founders wished. In fact, Trust moved the majority of its staff from their Philadelphia headquarters down to Washington, D.C., and closer to the action where they can better influence law-makers and other organizations


Most of the Pew Research Centre’s funding comes from its parent organization, the Pew Charitable Trusts. However, since 2005, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Templeton Foundation have jointly run the Pew-Templeton Centre on Global Religious Futures, which conducts surveys and analyses of religion around the world.


• The Pew Research Centre has had three presidents. The first, Andrew Kohut, came to the Pew Research Centre from its predecessor, the Times Mirror Centre for the People and the Press. Prior to that, he had served as president of the Gallup Organization between 1979-1989. Kohut served as president of the Pew Research Centre from 1995 until his retirement in 2012.

• His successor, Alan Murray, had been deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal. Murray left the Pew Research Centre in 2014 to become editor of Fortune.

• Pew’s third and current president is Michael Dimock, who was previously associate director of the centre and a political scientist at North Carolina State.

Is Pew biased?

A recent survey by the US-based Pew research on India said that 76 percent of Hindus, who say being Hindu is very important to being truly Indian, feel it is very important to stop Hindu women from marrying into another religion. By comparison, 52 percent of Hindus who place less importance on Hinduism’s role in Indian identity hold this view about religious intermarriage.

According to Pew website, the survey was conducted based on a face-to-face survey of 29,999 Indian adults fielded between late 2019 and early 2020 – before the COVID-19 pandemic and the survey took a closer look at religious identity, nationalism and tolerance in Indian society. The survey was conducted by local interviewers in 17 languages and covered nearly all of India’s states and union territories.

Pronab Sen, former chief statistician of India, in an interview on July 1, said low sample size results in higher error margin. Also, while Pew research has an unbiased image in the US, one cannot rule out the possibility of Pew surveys carrying some bias in other countries. I don’t know exactly how they do it. But look, one of the things about sampling theory is that sample size does not in itself lead to bias. But, if you have an insufficient sample size, then the quality of the estimate will be worse. If you work out the error, the error will be very large.

For a survey to be unbiased, it has to be truly random. Ideal of course is much larger. But if you want a sample which is only nationally representative, ie. if you don’t want to make any statements about states, then you will need about 60,000 to 70,000 minimum sample size. But, if you want to make any statement at the state level, the minimum needed is 1,20,000. If you want to do it at district levels, you will need a sample of about 5.5 lakh to 6 lakh, said pronab.

Controversies on PEW Survey’s

Several of Pew Research Centre’s studies have proven controversial, including surveys of religion. In 2013, Pew Research Centre’s Religion and Public Life Project produced A survey of Jewish America, claimed to be the largest survey of Jews in a decade.

The survey found that the percentage of Americans who were Jews remained relatively constant at 2.2 percent of the population. Pew researchers included in this number the 22 percent of Jews who said they did not have any religion but called themselves Jewish because they were raised as Jews or had a Jewish parent.

The researchers also found that 10 percent of the Jews living in the United States were either Soviet immigrants or were descended from parents born in the U.S.S.R.

Writing in Commentary, Jonathan S. Tobin summarized reactions from prominent Jews to the Pew survey. He noted that Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Union of Reform Judaism interpreted Pew’s findings that Jews were more likely to define themselves as Jewish because of their politics or social customs, that Judaism should downplay religion in favor of further outreach to Jews in ways that weren’t religious. “The true purpose here,” Tobin wrote, “would seem to be the unabashed identification of Judaism…with the latest in American liberal tropes.

Marvin Schick, formerly a professor at Hunter College and the New School of Social Research, argued that Pew had overstated the number of Orthodox Jews in the U.S. by counting the number of people who attended Orthodox synagogues but were not Orthodox. He faulted Pew, which hired Russian-speaking researchers to deal with Russian emigrants, for failing to hire anyone with first-hand knowledge of Orthodox Judaism to study the Orthodox population.

J.J. Goldberg, writing in Forward, argued that Pew overstated its evidence that the percentage of Jews “with no religion” had risen dramatically from 7 percent of Jews surveyed in 2000 to 20 percent in 2013. Goldberg suggested that the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey showed that 20 percent of Jews surveyed then had said they were “of no religion,” a figure comparable to Pew’s. Goldberg also said that other demographic surveys of American Jews in the past 20 years showed the number of Jews in the U.S. was constant at just over two million, rather than being slowly in decline as Pew found.

Criticism by Robert Wuthnow

In a 2015 article in First Things, Robert Wuthnow, a Princeton sociologist and the author of ‘Inventing American Religion: Polls, Surveys and the Tenuous Quest for a Nation’s Faith’, noted that “Mentions of Pew polling about religion in the nation’s newspapers and periodicals increased from approximately 1,800 mentions in the 1990s to more than 11,000 between 2005 and 2012.”

He stated, “Polling has taught us to think about religion in certain ways that happen to be convenient for conducting polls. The questions tap a few aspects of belief and behavior that can be tracked as trends and rarely provide opportunities to hear what people actually think.”

He noted that falling response rates threatened polls’ accuracy and that answering questions about religion was not as simple as determining which candidate to support in an election. For example, surveys that showed the number of nonreligious Americans were increasing did not show that many of these Americans still said they believed in God and still attended religious services occasionally.

Some Recent Surveys done by PEW

1. 56% of Americans oppose the right to sue social media companies for what users post

Some 56% of U.S. adults say people should not be able to sue social media companies for content that other users post on these companies’ platforms, according to a new survey conducted April 12-18, 2021. At the same time, 41% say people should be able to do this.

2. Behind Biden’s 2020 Victory

A new analysis of 2020 validated voters examines change and continuity in the electorate, both of which contributed to Joe Biden’s victory. It looks at how new voters and voters who turned out in either 2016, 2018 or both voted in the 2020 presidential election, and offers a detailed portrait of the demographic composition of the 2020 electorate.

3.China’s international image remains broadly negative as views of the U.S. rebound

Views of the United States and China have diverged sharply in parts of the world. Whereas last year negative views of both countries were at or near historic highs, today, positive views of the U.S. have rebounded across 17 advanced economies while most continue to see China in an unfavorable light, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

4.Large Majorities Say China Does Not Respect the Personal Freedoms of Its People

Across advanced economies in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region, few people think the Chinese government respects the personal freedoms of its people. In 15 of the 17 publics surveyed by Pew Research Center, eight-in-ten or more hold this view. This sense is also at or near historic highs in nearly every place surveyed, having risen significantly in countries like Italy, South Korea, Greece, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom since 2018.

5. भारत में धर्म: सहिष्णुता और अलगाव

More than 70 years after India became free from colonial rule, Indians generally feel their country has lived up to one of its post-independence ideals: a society where followers of many religions can live and practice freely. India’s massive population is diverse as well as devout. Not only do most of the world’s Hindus, Jains and Sikhs live in India, but it also is home to one of the world’s largest Muslim populations and to millions of Christians and Buddhists.

6. One-third of Asian Americans fear threats, physical attacks and most say violence against them is rising

Amid widespread reports of discrimination and violence against Asian Americans during the coronavirus outbreak, 32% of Asian adults say they have feared someone might threaten or physically attack them – a greater share than other racial or ethnic groups. The vast majority of Asian adults (81%) also say violence against them is increasing, far surpassing the share of all U.S. adults (56%) who say the same, according to a new Pew Research Center surv

7. Many churchgoers in U.S. don’t know the political leanings of their clergy

During election years, many Americans hear at least something about politics at their place of worship. But a recent Pew Research Center survey finds that churches and other houses of worship are not strongly political environments, at least according to the people in the pews. Among U.S. adults who attend religious services a few times a year or more often, almost half (45%) say they’re not sure whether the clergy at their congregation are Democrats or Republicans, and roughly a quarter (27%) say their clergy are a mix of both. When congregants think they know the political affiliation of their religious leaders, 16% say their clergy are mostly Republicans, while a slightly smaller share say they are mostly Democrats (11%).

8. The Global God Divide

Across the 34 countries, which span six continents, a median of 45% say it is necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values. But there are large regional variations in answers to this question. People in the emerging economies included in this survey tend to be more religious and more likely to consider religion to be important in their lives, and they are also more likely than people in this survey who live in advanced economies to say that belief in God is necessary to be moral. Differences occur within countries as well. In general, people who are relatively nonreligious are more inclined than highly religious people in the same countries to say it is not necessary to believe in God to be a moral person.

9. On The Intersection of Science and Religion

Over the centuries, the relationship between science and religion has ranged from conflict and hostility to harmony and collaboration, while various thinkers have argued that the two concepts are inherently at odds and entirely separate. But much recent research and discussion on these issues has taken place in a Western context, primarily through a Christian lens. To better understand the ways in which science relates to religion around the world, Pew Research Center engaged a small group of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists to talk about their perspectives. These one-on-one, in-depth interviews took place in Malaysia and Singapore – two Southeast Asian nations that have made sizable investments in scientific research and development in recent years and that are home to religiously diverse populations.

Source- Capital Research Centre,, Influence watch,, PEW