News Interest Index: Economic Problems, Especially in Detroit, Absorb Public's Attention

  • November 20, 2008

With the presidential election behind them, Americans have turned their attention back to the nation's economy.  The economy was by far the public's top news story last week, according to the latest News Interest Index by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Fully 56% of the public followed news about the economy very closely last week, and as many as 43% listed this as the single news story they followed more closely than any other. In particular, Americans are beginning to focus more closely on the problems facing the U.S. auto industry.  

Despite the public's changing focus, the national news media split its coverage between economic and political news last week.  According to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, the media devoted as much attention to Barack Obama's plans for his administration as it did to the economic crisis. 

Three-in-ten Americans paid very close attention to news about problems facing the U.S. auto industry last week. Interest in news about the fate of the Big Three automakers has increased significantly in recent weeks. Two weeks earlier, only 16% were paying very close attention to news about the possible merger of General Motors and Chrysler. The last time the public was tracking news about the auto industry this closely was in January 1992, when GM announced major job cuts and restructuring.

When asked to name the one economic or financial problem they have been hearing the most about in the news these days, the auto industry is the second most prominent issue, after the housing and mortgage crisis.  About one-in-five (21%) named housing as the one economic problem they've been hearing the most about, while 17% named the auto industry.  Other economic issues the public is hearing a lot about include the government bailout plan (13%), the credit crisis (11%), the stock market (9%) and unemployment (7%).

Read the full report Economic Problems, Especially in Detroit, Absorb Public's Attention on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.