News Interest Index: Health Care Front-And-Center on Public's News Agenda

Jul 30, 2009

The public sharpened its focus on health care reform last week, following news about the debate in Washington more closely than any other story. Interest in health care reform has steadily increased in recent weeks as coverage – including a prime-time presidential news conference – has intensified.

Nearly a third (31%) name  the debate in Washington over health care reform as their top story, more than the share who cite the economy (19%) or the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. (17%). In addition, the latest weekly News Interest Index survey, conducted July 24-27 among 1,018 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, finds that more than four-in-ten (44%) say they followed health care news very closely, up from 33% in the previous week and 24% two weeks prior.

Public interest in health care has risen hand-in-hand with the level of media coverage the story has received. According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ), a quarter of the newshole was devoted to health care last week, more than double the level of overall coverage given to any other story. This marks the highest level of media attention given to the topic since PEJ began the News Coverage Index in 2007. And, as coverage has risen steadily over the past three weeks, public attention to health care has also climbed: almost doubling since mid-July.

News about health care reform captured the very close attention of Republicans (42%), Democrats (44%) and independents (45%) alike. Men and women were equally likely to follow the story very closely. By contrast, a greater share of those with a college degree (50%) followed news about health care very closely than those with no more than a high school diploma (35%).

Read the full report Health Care Front-And-Center on Public's News Agenda on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.

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