News Interest Index: Campaign and Economy Dominate News Interest

  • January 30, 2008

The presidential campaign continued to dominate national news coverage last week, and the public remained highly engaged in the ongoing contest. Nearly 40% of the national newshole was devoted to the campaign, and 36% of the public listed the campaign as the single news story they were following more closely than any other.

Democratic frontrunners Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were the most prominent figures in the news last week. When asked to name the person they had heard the most about in the news lately, 24% of the public named Obama and 23% named Clinton. In a week when he proposed a major economic stimulus plan, just 5% of Americans named George Bush as the person they had heard the most about. About twice as many (11%) named Hollywood actor Heath Ledger, who died last week.

Major economic news also drew heavy coverage and widespread interest last week. In all, the national news media devoted 19% of its coverage to the economy; 10% of the coverage was focused on Bush's economic stimulus plan and 5% was focused on major fluctuations in the stock market. For its part, the public was somewhat more interested in stock market news than in the stimulus plan. Overall, 29% of Americans followed stock market news very closely and 14% listed this as their most closely followed story of the week. By comparison, 24% say they followed news about the stimulus package very closely, and 11% listed this as their most closely followed story.

People with higher household incomes paid the closest attention to stock market news: 46% of those with annual household incomes of $75,000 or higher paid very close attention to news about the stock market. While the stimulus plan was aimed in large part at lower and middle income Americans, those in the highest income category were among the most likely to follow this story as well.

Read the full report Campaign and Economy Dominate News Interest on the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press Web site.