03/15/2007 - News about problems with the medical care of wounded Iraq war veterans drew the public's attention last week. More than three-in-ten Americans (31%) paid very close attention to news about conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and more general reports about how soldiers returning from Iraq are being cared for. And 20% said this was the story they followed most closely, making it the second most closely followed news story of the week. The situation in Iraq continued to be the dominant news story both in terms of interest and coverage. Even the announcement of a verdict in the Scooter Libby trial failed to generate much public interest, in spite of the news media's intense focus on the story.
In another measure of the public's interest in the Walter Reed story, nearly one-quarter (24%) say this story received too little coverage from the news media, only 4% say it has received too much coverage. Actual news coverage of the story was substantial last week. Six percent of the news on all sectors was devoted to this topic. When the Walter Reed story first broke, public interest was much more limited. The week of Feb. 19, 19% of the public followed the story very closely and 5% named it as their most closely followed news story. That same week news about conditions at Walter Reed filled 3% of the newshole.
Only 13% of the public followed the Libby verdict very closely and 7% named it as the story they followed most closely last week. Interest was up only moderately from January and February, when the trial was ongoing. In terms of news coverage, the Libby story made up 13% of the overall newshole for the week putting it ahead of the presidential campaign and the Walter Reed story. It was the top story on cable television with 18% of cable news devoted to the verdict.
Read the full report Public Tunes In to Walter Reed Story, Little Interest in Libby Verdict on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.