The 9/11 terrorist attacks drew more public interest than any other story in the past decade. In October 2001, a month after the attacks, 78% said they were following news about the story very closely, up slightly from the week after the attacks (74%).
The devastating hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 – first Katrina and then Rita – also captured the attention of an overwhelming numbers Americans. In October of that year, a month after Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, 74% said they were following news about the storms very closely (70% were following very closely the week after Katrina hit).
The 2005 hurricanes sent the price of gas soaring, a development that also drew broad public attention. In September 2005, 70% said they were following news about high gas prices very closely. In general, the public is highly attentive to fluctuations in gas prices. Nearly as many said they were closely following rising gas prices in May 2006 (69%) and June 2008 (66%), and when prices fell in October 2008, 53% followed very closely.
Read the full report, Public's Top Stories of the Decade - 9/11 and Katrina on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.