News Interest Index: Health Care Reform Closely Followed, Much Discussed

  • August 20, 2009

Public interest in health care reform shows no signs of slackening, with news about the debate continuing to top the public's news agenda.

Fully 46% name health care as the story they followed more closely than any other last week – double the percentage who named the week's second most closely followed story (economy, 23%). Moreover, health care is far and away the story people say they have been talking about most with friends: 55% say this, compared with 20% who name the economy.

The latest weekly News Interest Index survey, conducted August 14-17 among 1,003 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, finds that as news coverage of the health care debate reached a new high, claims that reform legislation would create “death panels” registered widely with the public. Fully 86% say they have heard either a lot (41%) or a little (45%) about so-called death panels – “government organizations that will make decisions about who will and will not receive health services when they are critically ill.”

Among those who have heard about death panels, 50% say the claim is not true, but a sizable minority (30%) believes that health care legislation will create such organizations (20% say they do not know). There are stark partisan differences in opinions about this issue, as well as substantial differences across news audiences.

Read the full report Health Care Reform Closely Followed, Much Discussed on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.