03/29/2007 - Public interest in the Iraq war remained high last week as the country marked the fourth anniversary of the conflict, and the House of Representatives passed a controversial war funding bill. At the same time the fallout from the firing of eight U.S. attorneys by the Justice Department failed to gain much traction with the public, in spite of intense media coverage of the story.
Beyond Iraq, the public divided its attention fairy evenly among the other top stories of the week - a missing Boy Scout found alive in North Carolina, news about the 2008 presidential campaign, medical care for wounded Iraq war veterans, and the U.S. attorney story. The third week into the U.S. attorney story, public interest increased only marginally, and the gap between coverage of the story and public attentiveness remained substantial. Only 20% of the public paid very close attention to news about the firings, and 8% said it was the story they followed most closely (unchanged from last week). Fully 18% of news coverage for the week was devoted to this story.
The public is divided over whether the story is interesting or boring (48% vs. 46%). Even so, a solid majority (68%) says the issue is important to the country. Overall, this story is viewed as somewhat more significant than the recent Scooter Libby trial - 59% said that was important for the country.
There is a significant partisan gap over the importance of the story. While 80% of Democrats believe the story is important for the country, only 60% of Republicans agree. Roughly two-thirds of independents view the issue as important. Democrats are also more likely to find the story interesting - 59% vs. 42% of Republicans. Independents are split on this matter - 46% interesting, 48% boring.
These findings are based on the most recent installment of the weekly News Interest Index, an ongoing project of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The index, building on the Center's longstanding research into public attentiveness to major news stories, examines news interest as it relates to the news media's agenda. The weekly survey is conducted in conjunction with The Project for Excellence in Journalism's News Coverage Index, which monitors the news reported by major newspaper, television, radio and online news outlets on an ongoing basis.
Read the full report Attorney Firings: Important but Not Interesting on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.