Report

News Interest Index: Public Stays with Health Care, Media Focuses on Terror

  • January 13, 2010

The public and the media went their own ways on the news last week. The media kept up heavy coverage of the aftermath of the attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound jet on Christmas Day, while the public focused most closely on the health care debate in Washington.

About a quarter (26%) of Americans say the debate over health care reform was the story they followed most closely, while 17% say they followed news about the government's response to the attempted terror attack on a Northwest Airlines jet more closely than any other major story.

By another measure, the percentage of Americans saying they followed the government's response to the failed terror attack “very closely” rivals interest in the other major stories of the week: 37% say they followed this story very closely. Just more than four-in-ten (42%) say they followed news about the harsh winter weather very closely, while 39% each say the same about the economy and the health care debate, according to the latest News Interest Index survey conducted Jan. 8-11 among 1,043 adults nationwide by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Coverage of the aftermath of the alleged attempt by a young Nigerian to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam accounted for 22% of news coverage last week, according to a separate analysis by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. That includes 17% of coverage specifically about the incident and the government's decision to try the suspect in federal court and another 5% dedicated to issues involving airport security. (The airport security stories are included in a broader category of coverage dedicated to domestic anti-terror efforts in PEJ's analysis.) Coverage of this story – which centered on security procedures at the nation's airports, the suspect's indictment and concerns about why he had not been flagged earlier as a potential danger – was especially heavy on network and cable television.

Read the full report Public Stays with Health Care, Media Focuses on Terror on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.