News Interest Index: Blagojevich Arrest Grabs Public Attention

Dec 18, 2008

The arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich last week on corruption charges drew public interest at levels rivaling or topping most national political scandals of the past few years. The charges include allegations that Blagojevich sought personal financial gain from his choice to fill President-elect Barack Obama’s senate seat.

About three-in-ten (29%) Americans say they followed the breaking scandal “very closely;” another 35% say they followed the story “fairly closely.” Only the congressional check bouncing scandal of 1992 – in which members of Congress were investigated for overdrawing their office checking accounts – and the alleged Clinton-Lewinsky affair in 1998 rated higher in terms of public interest. Roughly a third of Americans followed those stories very closely (36% and 34% respectively) when they first became public.

In comparison to other recent scandals, interest in the Blagojevich story is on par with March reports about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s involvement with a prostitute and the 2006 congressional page controversy involving former Rep. Mark Foley (26% followed each very closely). Other recent personal or political scandals, such as those involving Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the firing of federal prosecutors, or Sen. Larry Craig, received less public attention.

Read the full report Blagojevich Arrest Grabs Public Attention on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.

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