News Interest Index: Wright Controversy Top Campaign Event So Far

News Interest Index: Wright Controversy Top Campaign Event So Far

The latest round of news about Barack Obama and his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright dominated campaign news coverage last week. According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism's (PEJ) Campaign Coverage Index, 42% of all campaign coverage last week dealt with the Rev. Wright controversy.

Wright's comments are by far the biggest political event of the campaign to date: fully 62% say they have heard a lot or a little about Rev. Wright's recent speeches. As a point of comparison, just 36% say they heard a lot or a little about another campaign development last week - the calls by Hillary Clinton and John McCain to temporarily suspend the federal gasoline tax.

Most Americans (59%) think that news organizations have overcovered the Wright controversy. About two-thirds of Democrats (66%) and nearly as many independents (59%) say that news organizations have devoted too much coverage to Wright's recent speeches. But as many as half of Republicans agree that Wright's comments have received too much coverage.

Obama was by far the most visible presidential candidate last week; 57% say Obama is the candidate they heard the most about in the news recently while just 29% named Clinton. McCain barely registered with the public last week as only 2% said he was the candidate they had heard the most about.

By the end of the week, a quarter of all Americans, including 26% of Democrats, said their opinion of Obama had become less favorable in recent days; fewer than half as many (11%) said their opinion of the Illinois senator had become more favorable.

People who said their impression of Obama had changed in recent days were asked if any specific events had caused them to change their view of him. Overall, a majority of those who said their opinion of Obama had become more negative volunteered a specific incident, with the Wright controversy mentioned most frequently (by 60% of those who cited a specific event). Descriptions included "the debacle concerning the Rev. Wright," "the mess with his preacher" and "Jeremiah's opinions."

According to exit polls in North Carolina and Indiana, roughly half of the primary voters in those states said Obama's relationship with Wright was an important factor in their vote. Those who said this was important voted overwhelmingly for Clinton. And exit polls in both states found late deciders backing Clinton to a greater extent than those who made up their minds earlier.

Read the full report Wright Controversy Top Campaign Event So Far on the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press Web site.

Spotlight on Mental Health

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies

Explore

Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.