News Interest Index: Strong Interest in Health Care, Little Interest in Palin

News Interest Index: Strong Interest in Health Care, Little Interest in Palin

The debate over health care reform dominated the public's news interests last week, even as other stories – including the furor over new mammogram guidelines and Sarah Palin's book tour – vied for the news media's attention.

Fully 41% cite the health care debate as their most closely followed story of the week, far more than the percentage citing any other story. Nearly one-in-five (18%) name reports about swine flu as their top story, while somewhat fewer (11% each) cite the new mammogram guidelines and the debate over sending more U.S. forces to Afghanistan. Just 4% say that President Obama's trip to Asia was their top story and even fewer – 2% of the public – cite news about Sarah Palin and her new book.

The health care debate also was the week's top story in terms of news coverage, accounting for 13% of the newshole, according to a separate study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ). But while Palin's book tour drew about as much coverage as the controversy over mammogram guidelines (8% vs. 7%), reports about the new guidelines attracted far more interest among the public.     

Most Americans (52%) say they have been hearing too much about Palin, while 26% say they have been hearing the right amount and 13% say they have been hearing too little about her. Far more say they are hearing too much about Palin now than in July, after her surprise resignation as Alaska's governor (38%).

The Pew Research Center's latest weekly News Interest Index, conducted Nov. 20-23 among 1,002 adults, finds that 70% of those who followed the news about the changes in mammogram guidelines at least fairly closely say they were surprised by new recommendations made by a federally appointed task force. And by greater than three-to-one (68% to 22%), more say they disagree than agree with the new guidelines.

Read the full report Strong Interest in Health Care, Little Interest in Palin on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.