Report

News Interest Index: Many Fault Media Coverage of Health Care Debate

  • August 06, 2009

As the fight in Washington over health care reform continues to dominate public attention and media coverage, most Americans are critical of the way news organizations are explaining key elements of the debate.

News about proposed health care legislation was the most closely followed story of last week, just as it had been the prior week. More than a third (36%) say they followed news about the debate more closely than any other major story. And when people are asked what news story they are talking about with friends, the most frequent response is health care (also 36%), far outpacing mentions of other stories, including the economy.

The latest News Interest Index survey, conducted July 31-August 3 among 1,013 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, finds that the public gives news organizations low marks for their coverage of health care. More than seven-in-ten say the media has done either a poor (40%) or only fair (32%) job explaining details of the various proposals. Just 21% offer a positive rating of this coverage: 4% excellent and 17% good.

A similar percentage say news organizations have done either a poor (37%) or only fair (33%) job explaining the effect the “proposals would have on people like yourself.” About a quarter say they have done an excellent (7%) or good (16%) job on this. News organizations receive only slightly better ratings for how they have explained the political debate over health care. Still, 34% rate the job they have done as only fair and 28% say it is poor, while about three-in-ten say they have done an excellent (6%) or good job (25%) in covering this aspect of the story.

Read the full report Many Fault Media Coverage of Health Care Debate on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.