News Interest Index: Public Tunes out Ellen DeGeneres Controversy

  • October 25, 2007

News about the dangers of an antibiotic-resistant staph infection (MRSA) caught the public's attention last week. More than a quarter of Americans paid very close attention to this story and 18% listed it as the single news story they followed more closely than any other – placing it at the top of the weekly news interest index.

The national news media covered the MRSA story, but overall coverage lagged behind public interest. Only 3% of the national newshole was devoted to this story, making it the 9th most heavily covered story of the week. The story was featured more prominently on network TV news than on other sectors.

Women followed the MRSA story more closely than men (31% vs. 21% followed very closely). More than a quarter of women (26%) listed this as their most closely followed story of the week. Men were more focused on Iraq and the presidential campaign, only 10% listed MRSA as their top story of the week.

Parents were no more likely than non-parents to pay close attention to the story, but they are slightly more worried about the potential dangers of the infection. More than half (52%) of those who have children under age 18 living in their household are very or somewhat worried that they or someone in their household will be exposed to the infection. This compares with 39% of non-parents. Among the general public, 44% are at least somewhat worried about being exposed to the infection. This is higher than the percentage who were worried about being exposed to SARS in the spring of 2003 (35% were very or somewhat worried).

Read the full report Public Tunes out Ellen DeGeneres Controversy on Pew Research Center for the People and the Press Web site.