News Interest Index: NY Times' McCain Story Draws Public Interest - And Disapproval

Feb 27, 2008

An overwhelming majority of Americans (82%) are aware of news reports that John McCain may have had an improper relationship with a female lobbyist several years ago.  About half (48%) of the public has heard a lot about this story, which first appeared in the New York Times late last week.  Another 33% has heard at least a little about the story.  By a nearly two-to-one margin those who have heard about the McCain story think the New York Times was wrong to publish it – 57% say the Times did the wrong thing in publishing the story, 33% say the paper did the right thing.

Two other negative campaign news stories, both relating to Barack Obama, also gained wide recognition from the public.  Roughly three-quarters of the public heard about reports that Obama may have plagiarized lines from a speech by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.  Four-in-ten (39%) heard a lot about this story, 35% heard at least a little.  Fully 60% of the public heard about Michelle Obama’s comment that this is the first time in her adult life that she has been really proud of her country (35% heard a lot, 25% heard a little).  Republicans, Democrats and independents report hearing about these stories in roughly equal proportions.

Interest in news about the campaign more generally remains extremely high.  Last week 42% of the public followed campaign news very closely.  Obama has clearly become the most visible candidate in the eyes of the public.  Fully 53% named him as the candidate they had heard the most about in the news lately, 23% named Hillary Clinton, and 13% named John McCain.  The dominant sources for campaign news are network and cable television news. Fully 57% of Americans say they regularly get information about the presidential campaign from network TV news and 52% say the same about cable news.  By comparison only 42% say they regularly get campaign news from newspapers.  Roughly a third (34%) regularly access campaign news on the internet.

These are the principal findings of the weekly News Interest Index – an ongoing project of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press done in conjunction with The Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Read the full report NY Times' McCain Story Draws Public Interest - And Disapproval on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.

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