Thursday, August 25, 2011

Troubled Economy Top Story For Public And Media

Pew Research Center August 23, 2011: Americans focused most closely last week on news about the nation’s troubled economy amid concerns about the stalled recovery and fears of a possible new recession.

About four-in-ten (42%) say they followed reports about the condition of the U.S. economy more closely than any other news. That is three times the number saying their top story was news about the candidates for the 2012 presidential election (14%), according to the latest weekly News Interest Index survey, conducted Aug. 18-21 among 1,007 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Economic news topped coverage as well, accounting for a quarter of the newshole (25%), according to a separate analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ). News about the 2012 elections made up 13% of all news coverage.

Melding Economic and Political News

Economic story lines top the public’s news interest. At the same time, the debate over what the federal government can or should do to help the economy has become a key issue in the 2012 race for the White House.

More than four-in-ten (44%) say they followed news about the economy very closely last week, approaching the year’s high of 49%, while 42% say this was the news they followed most closely. Another 12% say they very closely followed news about the debate among European leaders over how to address the region’s debt crisis. This was the top story for 4% and accounted for 3% of coverage.

More than a quarter (27%) say they very closely followed news about candidates for the 2012 presidential elections, up from 19% the previous week and a high point for the year so far. With Texas Gov. Rick Perry stepping up his campaign for the GOP nomination and President Obama making a campaign-style bus trip, election news made up 13% of coverage, which was little changed from 15% the previous week, when Michele Bachmann won the Republican straw poll in Iowa and Perry officially entered the race.

Coverage and interest have both increased since early August. And, as the economic news has worsened, the GOP contenders have focused their criticism on Obama’s efforts to improve the situation. Perry made news last week with blunt criticism of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.

There are no partisan differences in attention to news about the economy with 48% of Republicans, 45% of Democrats and 47% of independents saying they followed economic news very closely. Republicans and Democrats also express similar interest in news about the 2012 elections: 36% of Republicans and 30% of Democrats followed this news very closely. Just more than two-in-ten independents (22%) say the same.

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