March 24, 2014

Nearly Half of Public Says ‘Right Amount’ of Malaysian Jet Coverage

One-in-Three Thinks Coverage Has Been Excessive

Survey Report

The public followed news about the missing Malaysia Airlines plane more closely than any other story last week. While the story has attracted extensive news coverage, especially from cable TV outlets, most Americans do not feel there has been too much coverage of the missing jetliner.

More See ‘Right Amount’ than ‘Too Much’ News Coverage of Missing PlaneThe latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted March 20-23 among 1,002 adults, finds that 44% followed news about the missing Malaysian jetliner most closely, far surpassing interest in any other story. Russia’s annexation of Crimea was a distant second, with 15% following that news most closely.

Nearly half of Americans (48%) say news organizations are giving the right amount of coverage to the investigation into the missing jetliner; another 12% say there has been too little coverage of this story. A third (33%) think the investigation into plane’s fate has received too much coverage.

However, more people think that the missing jetliner has received too much news coverage than say that about two other stories last week – Russia’s actions in Crimea and the rollout of the 2010 health care law; just 14% each view those stories as over-covered. For the most part, the public sees the amount of coverage of Russia and Crimea as appropriate (56% right amount). But fewer (40%) say that news about the rollout of the health care law has gotten the right amount of coverage. Nearly four-in-ten (37%) say implementation of the health care law has been under-covered by news organizations – the highest percentage of the three stories asked about.

College Graduates More Likely to Say Too Much Coverage of Investigation into Missing PlaneMore women than men said they followed news about the missing plane very closely (45% vs. 32%). Women view the amount of coverage as appropriate; 54% say there has been the right amount of coverage, while just half as many (27%) see it as excessive. By comparison, men are more divided: about four-in-ten men each say there has been the right amount (42%) and too much (38%) coverage.

Opinions about the plane coverage vary by education level, as well, even though similar shares of each group closely followed the story. Among adults with a college degree, about as many say there has been too much coverage (45%) as say the right amount of coverage (46%). Among those with a high school degree or less, 23% see too much coverage and 52% say it is the right amount.

About four-in-ten Republicans (41%) say there has been too much coverage of the missing jetliner. That compares with 34% of independents and just 25% of Democrats.

The Week’s Top Stories

Malaysian Airline Flight 370 went missing on March 8. Since then, there has been intensive speculation about what might have happened to the plane. Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, announced March 24 that the flight went down in the Indian Ocean.

Missing Plane Tops News Interest by Wide MarginThe survey, conducted March 20-23, found that while nearly four-in-ten (39%) followed news about the investigation into the missing jetliner very closely, 30% each tracked news about Russia taking control of Crimea and the U.S. economy very closely.

But when people are asked which story they followed most closely, interest in the probe into the Malaysian plane’s fate far exceeds interest in the week’s other news stories.

Young People Following News Much Less Closely, Except Surveillance NewsAs is typically the case, young people express less interest in most of this week’s news stories than do older adults. Only about a quarter of those under 30 (26%) tracked news about the missing jetliner very closely, by far the lowest share of any age group.

When it comes to news about the government’s phone and internet surveillance programs, however, young adults are about as interested as older people. Moreover, among young people interest in news about surveillance programs (14% very closely) is about on par with interest in news about Russia and Crimea (15%) and news about the rollout of the 2010 health care law (9%).

Cite this publication: “Nearly Half of Public Says ‘Right Amount’ of Malaysian Jet Coverage.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (March 24, 2014) http://www.people-press.org/2014/03/24/nearly-half-of-public-says-right-amount-of-malaysian-jet-coverage/, accessed on July 22, 2014.