April 26, 1999

Record News Interest in Littleton Shooting

Introduction and Summary

The Colorado school shootings evoked an extraordinary level of public attention. It is the third ranked news story of the 1990s in Pew Research Center surveys which have measured public attentiveness to more than 600 national and international stories since January 1990. Interest in the Littleton tragedy is comparable to the amount of attention paid by the American public to the Rodney King verdict and subsequent riots, the crash of TWA Flight 800, the end of the Gulf War, and Hurricane Andrew.

Fully 68% of Americans said they followed the shooting of teachers and students in Colorado “very closely” in a nationwide Pew Research Center survey conducted April 22-23, 1999.

Women followed the Colorado school shootings more closely than men (73% vs. 63%, respectively). And interest in the story was especially high among young people, who tend to pay less attention than older Americans to most types of news. Fully 73% of those under 30 followed the shootings very closely, compared to 65% of those between 30 and 49 and 69% of those 50 and older.

Meanwhile, a substantial number of Americans (41%) continued to pay close attention to the NATO air strikes against Serbian forces, the same level of interest found in surveys earlier this month and during the first week of the bombing. Almost no one (5%) paid close attention to the meetings and celebration of NATO’s 50th anniversary in Washington, D.C.