12/20/2006 - Once again, public opinion played a major role in the most important news stories of the year. Some of the strongest 2006 trends in public opinion carried over from previous years notably growing concern about the Iraq war and mounting dissatisfaction with the performance of the Republican-controlled Congress. In the case of another continuing story, the succession of scandalous revelations involving lobbyists, members of Congress and other high-profile figures, intense media coverage failed to ignite immediate public outrage, but its cumulative effect was nonetheless apparent on election day.
Economic issues especially a sharp rise in gasoline prices during the first several months of the year remained high on Americans' worry list, and the public seemed immune to cheerier economic indicators, including receding prices at the pump and a booming stock market.
Notable new stories also attracted considerable attention. These include: such happenings as Vice President Cheney's accidental shooting of a fellow hunter, the proposed takeover of U.S. port facilities by a Mideast emirate and the death of miners trapped in a West Virginia coal mine.
Then there were those stories where, despite headline coverage, the public appeared unmoved the dogs that didn't bark, at least as loudly as one might have expected. Immigration, for example, spiked in the zeitgeist during May's demonstrations but it faded quickly in the public mind and appeared to exert little influence on the fall elections. Nor did once hot-button social values issues, such as gay marriage and abortion, play the important role they did in other recent years. And despite the hoopla surrounding its release in early December, the Iraq Study Group's report scarcely registered with most Americans.
Read the full article What Was and Wasn't on the Public's Mind...And How Opinions Changed During 2006 on the Pew Research Center Web site.