The first week of fall brought little change to the public's news agenda with the debate over health care reform continuing to top public interest. However, the news media play much less of a role in shaping views of health care reform and the economy – where personal experiences are an important factor – than they do on environmental issues and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
More than four-in-ten (42%) name the health care debate as the single news story they followed more closely than any other last week, far more than mention reports about the condition of the U.S. economy (19%). Public interest in health care has been stable over recent weeks, consistently eclipsing interest in other news stories.
When asked what is most important in helping them to form opinions on health care, 41% cite what they have heard or read in the media as most important; only somewhat fewer cite personal experiences (31%), while another 25% say that talking with friends and family is most important. Similarly, nearly as many people say that personal experiences are most important in helping them form opinions about the economy (35%) as cite the media (41%), with 23% mentioning talking with friends and family.
By contrast, clear majorities say the media is most important in helping them form opinions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (61%) and environmental issues such as global climate change (57%), while far fewer cite personal experiences as being most important (15% for Iraq and Afghanistan, 19% for environmental issues). In each case, about one-in-five cite talking with family and friends as most important (22% Iraq and Afghanistan, 19% environment).
Read the full report Media Less Influential in Views on Health Care, Economy Than on Other Issues on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.