News Interest Index: Strong Public Interest in Japan Disaster

Mar 15, 2011

The devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan late last week dominated the public’s news interest – and news media coverage – in the days following the March 11 disaster.

Roughly half (52%) of the public say they very closely followed news about the massive earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan and the tsunami that followed, according to the latest News Interest Index survey, conducted March 10-13 among 1,001 adults. The Japan disaster was by far the top story of the week – 46% say this was the news they followed most closely last week; no other story came close.

Still, the number saying they followed the Japanese catastrophe very closely is somewhat less than the 60% that said they followed news that closely about the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010. In January 2005, 58% said they very closely followed news about the major earthquake and tsunami that struck Indonesia, Sri Lanka and other south Asian nations. Later that year, more Americans paid very close attention to a disaster in this country -- Hurricane Katrina -- the week that hurricane hit the Gulf Coast (70% very closely).

Read the full report, Strong Public Interest in Japan Disaster, on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.

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