September 13, 2011

9/11 Commemorations Capture Public Attention

Rick Perry Most Visible Among GOP Contenders

Overview

The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks topped the public’s news interest last week, but Americans also continued to closely track news about the nation’s struggling economy.

About a quarter (27%) say they followed coverage of the solemn 9/11 anniversary more closely than any other news. Nearly as many (23%) say they followed news about the economy most closely. Another 13% cite President Obama’s speech to Congress to unveil his jobs plan as their top story, according to the latest weekly News Interest Index survey, conducted Sept. 8-11 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press among 1,010 adults.

These two topics – the 9/11 anniversary and the economy’s troubles – also topped media coverage. News about the anniversary and developments related to terror on the home front together accounted for 18% of coverage, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ). News about the economy made up a total of 28% of the newshole. About two thirds of that (19% of all coverage) focused on Obama’s Sept. 8 jobs speech, while 9% focused on economic news more generally.

Most Americans (60%) say that news organizations gave the right amount of coverage to the Sept. 11 anniversary. Fewer (44%) say this about coverage of the early stages of the 2012 presidential campaign.

With Rick Perry quickly attaining front-runner status since jumping into the race last month, 31% say the Texas governor is the possible Republican candidate they have heard about most in the news recently. No one else comes close: 12% say that candidate is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney while 7% say it is Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. In mid-August, Americans were about equally likely to say they had heard the most about Perry or Bachmann.

Right Amount of 9/11 Coverage?

Four-in-ten (42%) say they very closely followed news about the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. That is more than said they followed news about the 9/11 anniversary in 2010 very closely (33%) and comparable to the 39% that followed the first anniversary of 9/11 in 2002 very closely. Differences among partisan and demographic groups are generally small.

Among those reached on Sunday, Sept. 11, nearly half (48%) say they followed news about the anniversary very closely. For the three days leading up to the commemoration events, 38% say they followed 9/11 news very closely.

Most Americans (60%) say news organizations have given the anniversary the right amount of coverage; 21% say it received too much coverage and 13% say it received too little. In 2002, just before the first anniversary of 9/11 56% said the anniversary received the right amount of coverage, while 35% thought there was too much coverage. At that point, just 3% said the events commemorating 9/11 received too little coverage.

A plurality (44%) continues to say that news organizations are giving the right amount of coverage to possible candidates for the 2012 election; 25% say the presidential campaign has gotten too much coverage while 20% say it has gotten too little coverage.

Differences among partisans are relatively narrow, though Republican (56%) are more likely than Democrats (45%) or independents (39%) to say news organizations are giving the candidates the right amount of coverage.

Perry Getting Most Attention

Three-in-ten (31%) name Perry when asked
which GOP candidate they have heard the most about in the news recently. That is much higher than the percentages naming Romney (12%) or Bachmann (7%).
The survey was completed before Monday’s GOP debate in Tampa.

In mid-August – with Bachmann coming off a win in the Iowa straw poll and Perry joining the race – about as many said they had heard the most about Bachmann (23%) as Perry (22%). Since then, Bachmann’s visibility has dropped sharply.

Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 44% say they are hearing the most about Perry, while just 11% say this about Romney. Fewer than one-in-ten Republicans and GOP leaners say they have heard the most about Bachmann.  Among those in the general public following the early stages of the 2012 campaign very closely, nearly half (48%) say they have heard the most about Perry; 14% name Romney and 6% name Bachmann.

The Week’s News

While 42% say they followed news about the Sept. 11 anniversary very closely last week, a comparable 40% say they followed news about the economy very closely. The number tracking economic news very closely is little changed from recent weeks. Republicans, Democrats and independents are about equally likely to say they are tracking economic news very closely.

Overall, 28% say they followed news about the speech to Congress very closely; 13% say this was the news they followed most closely. More than four-in-ten Democrats (43%) say they followed this news very closely, compared with 16% of Republicans and 26% of independents.

Two-in-ten (20%) say they followed news about the destructive Texas wildfires very closely; 10% say this was the news they followed most closely. Not surprisingly, more people in the South followed this news very closely (28%) than those in any other region.

About two-in-ten (22%) say they followed news about the 2012 elections very closely; 7% say this was their top story. The number following very closely is unchanged from the previous week. Though much of the coverage at this point is about the Republican candidates, partisans are about equally likely to say they followed candidate news very closely (25% of Republicans, 21% of Democrats and 22% of independents).

Two-in-ten (20%) say they followed news about the serious financial problems facing the U.S. Postal Service. Just 3% say this was the news they followed most closely. News about the Postal Service – and the possibility of deep cuts in its operations – made up 1% of coverage, according to PEJ.

These findings are based on the most recent installment of the weekly News Interest Index, an ongoing project of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The index, building on the Center’s longstanding research into public attentiveness to major news stories, examines news interest as it relates to the news media’s coverage. The weekly survey is conducted in conjunction with The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s News Coverage Index, which monitors the news reported by major newspaper, television, radio and online news outlets on an ongoing basis. In the most recent week, data relating to news coverage were collected Sept. 5-11, and survey data measuring public interest in the top news stories of the week were collected Sept. 8-11 from a nationally representative sample of 1,010 adults.

Cite this publication: “9/11 Commemorations Capture Public Attention.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (September 13, 2011) http://www.people-press.org/2011/09/13/911-commemorations-capture-public-attention/, accessed on July 23, 2014.