News Interest Index: Public Tracks Economy, Media Focuses on Terror Debate

May 28, 2009

Americans continued to closely track news about the struggling economy and the spread of the swine flu last week, though the media devoted the largest share of coverage to the sharp debate in Washington over how best to protect the nation from terrorism.

About a quarter of the public (24%) says they followed reports about the condition of the economy more closely than other top stories last week, while 21% followed news about the swine flu most closely. According to the latest weekly News Interest Index survey, conducted May 21-24 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, about one-in-ten (11%) say they followed the debate about how to defend the nation from terror most closely.

A separate content analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that the media devoted 19% of the newshole to terrorism stories last week, making it the most covered story of the week. Much of that was tied to the dueling speeches on May 21 by President Obama and former Vice President Cheney that highlighted different approaches to thwarting terror and dealing with suspected terrorists in U.S. custody.

More than four-in-ten Americans (44%) say they followed reports about the U.S. economy very closely last week, which is little changed from recent weeks. News organizations, meanwhile, devoted 12% of the newshole to the economic crisis, as measured by PEJ. That figure does not include 5% of coverage devoted to new credit card regulations enacted into law last week in Washington. Interest in that story was measured separately in this survey.

Read the full report Public Tracks Economy, Media Focuses on Terror Debate on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.

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