News Interest Index: Most Feel a Personal Stake in Tracking Economic News

Feb 19, 2009

Americans continue to follow news about the economic crisis closely because they feel it is directly relevant to their lives. More than eight-in-ten (85%) say even when the economic news is bad they feel better knowing what’s going on, while 77% say they need to stay on top of economic news because it matters in the financial decisions they make.

At the same time, close to half (46%) of the public says they often feel they don’t have enough background information to follow economic news stories, according to the Pew Research Center’s weekly News Interest Index survey conducted Feb. 13-16. As the crisis takes a heavy toll on jobs, homes, retirement savings and entire communities, 49% also say the economic news seems to be the same all the time with nothing ever really changing; another 44% say they find themselves looking for lighter news as a diversion from negative economic reports.

But relatively few are turning off economic news because it is too disheartening. Fewer than three-in-ten (28%) say they often feel the news is so depressing, they would rather not hear about it.

In fact, from the public’s perspective, the economic news landscape is somewhat less bleak today than it was a few months ago. Conducted immediately after Congress approved the economic stimulus bill, the survey finds fewer people than in December saying they are hearing “mostly bad news about the economy.” That percentage has declined from 80% to 60%, while the percentage saying they are hearing “a mix of good and bad news” jumped from 19% in December to 37%.

Read the full report Most Feel a Personal Stake in Tracking Economic News on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.

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