News Interest Index: Gas Prices Pump Up Economic Interest

  • June 19, 2008

The Pew Research Center finds that the public continues to express strong interest in news about the economy. More than four-in-ten (42%) tracked economic news very closely last week, only slightly below the 45% who tracked news about the economy very closely in mid-March, which was a 15-year high. And while several specific economic and financial news stories have been on the public's radar, none has been as dominant as the rising price of gas and oil.

When asked in an open-ended format to name the economic or financial problem they have been hearing the most about in the news lately, fully 72% of Americans point to gas and oil prices. No other issue comes close. The housing and mortgage crisis is a distant second with 11% of the public naming this as the economic issue they have been hearing the most about.

This represents a dramatic shift since January, when just 7% named gas prices as the economic story they had heard most about, while more than four times as many (31%) cited the housing crisis. The possibility of a recession was another frequently mentioned response in January: 14% named this as the issue they had been hearing the most about. Currently, only 1% cite a recession as the issue they've been hearing the most about.

The public's increased interest in rising gas and energy prices also is reflected in the larger percentage of Americans who say they follow this news regularly, not just when there are major headlines. More than eight-in-ten Americans (82%) report that they now follow news about gas and energy prices pretty regularly, up from 69% in August 2007.

However, the public also expresses greater interest in news about the price of food and other consumer goods, health care costs, jobs and housing than last summer. Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) say they follow news about the price of food and other consumer goods pretty regularly - up 16 points since August 2007 - while 50% say they regularly follow news about the housing market. Last summer only 37% said they regularly followed news about housing.

Read the complete findings Gas Prices Dominate the Public's Economic News Agenda on the Pew Research Center Web site.