News Interest Index: Health Care Finale—Heavy Coverage, Huge Interest

  • March 23, 2010

Americans closely tracked the final stages of the long-running debate over health care reform legislation last week as the story dominated media coverage. More than half (53%) of the public says the debate was the story they followed most closely, while the story was the focus of 37% of news coverage. Half of Americans report talking about the health care reform news with friends.

As Sunday night's climactic House vote approached, the percentage of Americans who said health care legislation would pass grew by the day as Democrats struggled to round up the final votes and Republicans sought to derail the bill. By Sunday afternoon, 62% said they thought the legislation would pass, up from 49% on Friday and just 43% in the comparable survey the previous weekend. Yet even as late as Sunday, roughly a third of Americans said they did not think a health care reform bill would pass this year.

Americans remain critical of the media's handling of the health care debate, according to the latest News Interest Index survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press among 1,016 adults March 19-22. Three-quarters (75%) say that news organizations have done only a fair or a poor job explaining the details of the proposals, and nearly as many (71%) give negative ratings to the press for explaining the effects that health care proposals would likely have on “people like yourself.”  There is slightly less criticism of press coverage of the political debate itself, though even here, 58% offer only fair or poor ratings, while 38% say the press has done an excellent or good job. These assessments are little changed from August 2009.

Read the full report Health Care Finale: Heavy Coverage, Huge Interest on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.