News Interest Index: Obama's Trip a Top Campaign Event for Public

  • July 31, 2008

Barack Obama's weeklong tour of the Middle East and Europe dominated campaign coverage last week, and 90% of the public heard at least something about his travels. Obama's trip became one of the biggest campaign events thus far, with 62% saying they heard a lot about it. The only campaign development more widely known was Obama's securing the Democratic nomination in June.

Despite all the media attention and the high level of public awareness, only 15% say they learned a great deal about Obama's approach to foreign policy from hearing or reading about his overseas trip. A third say they learned some about his foreign policy views, but more than half (52%) say they didn't learn much or learned nothing at all.

Democrats learned more than Republicans or independents. Among Democrats who had heard about the trip, 20% say they learned a great deal about Obama's foreign policy positions from hearing or reading about his travels, another 37% say they learned some. Among Republicans who had heard about the trip, 12% said they learned a great deal and 28% said they learned some. Most Republicans (60%) said they learned little or nothing from the coverage of the trip. Independents were more evenly split with 45% saying they learned a great deal or some about Obama's foreign policy approach from following his trip and 55% saying they learned little or nothing.

Media coverage of Obama's trip accounted for 51% of all campaign news last week, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism's (PEJ) Campaign Coverage Index, making it one of the most heavily covered campaign stories of the year. As has been the case throughout the general election campaign, media coverage of Obama outweighed that of Republican John McCain last week by a significant margin: 81% of the campaign stories analyzed by PEJ prominently featured the Illinois senator, while 53% featured McCain. Obama has enjoyed a persistent advantage over McCain in terms of public visibility, and last week the gap between the two candidates was the widest it has been. Fully 77% of the public said Obama was the candidate they heard the most about in the news last week, only 9% named McCain.

Read the full report Obama's Trip a Top Campaign Event for Public the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.