News Interest Index: Obama Cabinet Appointees Highly Visible

  • January 15, 2009

Public awareness of Barack Obama's choices for cabinet and other high level posts is substantially higher than awareness of the top picks by George W. Bush and Bill Clinton just before they were first inaugurated. About two-thirds of Americans (65%) can name at least one person that Obama has chosen for a high level post in his administration, according to the Pew Research Center's weekly News Interest Index survey. In January 2001, fewer than half (43%) could identify a Bush appointee. In January 1993, even fewer (21%) could name someone joining Clinton's new administration.  

While the public is paying close attention to news about Obama's senior appointments,  there was far more public interest last week in news about rising unemployment numbers than in reports on Obama's transition. More than four-in-ten (45%) tracked news about the rising unemployment rate very closely, compared with 30% who followed news about Obama's transition very closely.

To be sure, much of the increased awareness of Obama's high-level personnel selections has to do with the president-elect's selection of Hillary Clinton to serve as secretary of state. Fully 56% of respondents offered Clinton's name as one of Obama's top appointments. Yet 35% were able to name a nominee other than Clinton, including 14% who recalled the name of Leon Panetta, Obama's choice to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and 12% who could name Bill Richardson, the New Mexico governor who withdrew his nomination to be commerce secretary on Jan. 4 because of an investigation into the awarding of contracts in his state. (Respondents were permitted to offer the name of more than one appointee.)

Read the full report Obama Cabinet Appointees Highly Visible on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.