By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Pew has some new data out about both what news stories people followed last week and what news stories the media covered. The good news is that Americans don't seem interested in frivolous news. The stories that Americans said they were following "very closely" were Afghanistan (43 were following very closely), healthcare (42 percent), and the economy (41 percent)--all roughly double the numbers for Tiger Woods's problems (19 percent) and the White House party crashers (16 percent).
In terms of stories followed "most closely," the pecking order was healthcare (29 percent), Afghanistan (20 percent), and the economy (15 percent), with El Tigre's peccadilloes sliding in with 10 percent. Seven percent followed the story of the police officers killed in Washington state, and only four percent most closely followed the story of the White House crashers.
So how did the media do in terms of giving the people what they wanted? Mixed bag.
Last week's most covered story was easily Afghanistan, with more than a quarter of news coverage (27 percent) devoted to it. No surprise there, given Obama's Afghanistan speech. Fourteen percent of news coverage was devoted to the economy--again, no surprise given the jobs summit and the president's renewed focus there.
After that, it's a muddle: Woods and the White House crashers coming in at 6 percent each, healthcare at 5 percent and the Washington police murders at 4 percent.
I must say I'm surprised that the Tiger number is only six percent. It seemed like every time I turned on a television or surfed the Web there was a new tidbit about Tiger and his (alleged) girlfriends. That said, the fact that Tiger outshone the healthcare debate is a bit depressing. After all, healthcare spending makes up something like 16 percent of GDP. Surely Tiger Inc. isn't more than 1 or 2 percent?
One more make-of-it-what-you-will tidbit from Pew (emphasis mine):
When people are asked which recent news story they have been talking about with friends, 30% mention Tiger Woods, 29% say Obama's decision on an Afghanistan strategy and 26% say health care reform. Women are just as likely as men to mention Woods (31% vs. 29%). There were only slight differences among age, race or political groups, though those from households earning at least $75,000 a year are much more likely to say they have been talking about Woods (40%) than are those in households earning less than $30,000 a year (19%).
I guess the less well off don't care as much about golf?