News Interest Index: Public, Media Track Oil Leak, Diverge On McChrystal

  • June 30, 2010

The public remained focused on the unfolding environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last week, while the media divided its attention between two top stories: the oil leak and controversial comments by Gen. Stanley McChrystal that led to his ouster as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

More than half of the public (53%) says they followed news about the Gulf coast oil leak more closely than any other major story. Just 7% say they followed news about the general's comments and resignation most closely, according to the latest News Interest Index survey conducted June 24-27 among 1,001 adults by the Pew Research Center.

Since early May, the public has tracked the worsening oil spill much more closely than any other news. The story also topped coverage for the previous six weeks. Last week, the McChrystal developments, triggered by a Rolling Stone article that included critical comments about administration officials by the general and top aides, garnered comparable levels of coverage.  The oil leak accounted for 23% of the newshole. News about McChrystal and President Obama's decision to replace him made up 21%. Including the McChrystal news, reports about the war in Afghanistan accounted for 25% of the newshole, the highest level of coverage for the war since Obama announced his new strategy – including the deployment of additional troops – on Dec. 1, 2009.

Almost three-in-ten (28%) say they followed the McChrystal story very closely, slightly more than the proportion who have said they followed other Afghanistan-related stories that closely this year. Notably, there is no difference by partisanship in terms of who followed this story. Meanwhile, close to six-in-ten (56%) say they followed news about the oil leak very closely.

Read the full report, Public, Media Track Oil Leak, Diverge On McChrystal on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.