What Was -- and Wasn’t -- On the Public’s Mind in 2007

Dec 19, 2007

As in previous years, public opinion played an important role in shaping many of 2007's major news stories. This year, fewer dominant trends were carryovers from the preceding year and those that were assumed a somewhat different -- and in the case of the Iraq war less pessimistic -- cast.

Economic concerns remained high on the public's worry list but focused less exclusively on rising gasoline prices, and more on rising income inequality. Overall, the speed-up in the presidential primary season meant that politics claimed more of the public's attention than is usually the case in a non-election year, and open races in both parties produced a number of surprises. A new generation began to put its mark on the society as views of marriage and parenthood continued to mutate. Muslim Americans continued to meld into the U.S. mainstream, but doubts about the future and feelings of racial divide were on the upswing among African Americans. Meanwhile the world cast an even more dubious eye on America but moved toward no consensus as to which country or countries would be a desirable counterbalancing power to U.S. hegemony.

Not all stories that claimed the attention of the mainstream media evoked equal public interest or responses. Veteran TV and movie actor Fred Thompson's late-launched presidential bid, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's truth-telling troubles, and rising concern about global warming all failed to move the public interest dial measurably in the end And while the Virginia Tech massacre drew wide immediate attention, neither it nor other bloody schoolyard happenings increased public support for gun control.

To capture these divergent measures, the Pew Research Center has compiled two separate lists: the top 15 stories in which public opinion played a significant role, and the most notable "non-barking dogs."

Read the full report What Was -- and Wasn’t -- On the Public’s Mind in 2007 on the Pew Research Center Web site.

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