Two Decades of American News Preferences

  • August 23, 2007
  • By Michael J. Robinson

Public interest in news has changed slightly over the last two decades, but in a manner that suggests no meaningful trend. The average reading for the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' News Interest Index did slip during the 1990s from 30% to 23%, a seemingly noteworthy decrease that represents nearly a fourth of the original level. Had the index continued to slide as much in the new millennium, that change would have suggested a trend of potentially great import. But in the current decade the index has bounced back to precisely its level during the 1980s: 30%.

Nor can any hidden trend be found embedded within the separate news categories. Among the 19 sub-categories of stories covered by the index, only five moved consistently in either direction -- either upward or downward. This is not much different from what one would expect by chance. And, if news tastes are at issue, within the five categories one finds contradictory evidence as to whether tastes have grown more serious, or less.

Read the full article Two Decades of American News Preferences at the Pew Research Center Web site.