No Partisan Advantage

The two parties continue to run neck and neck in the generic congressional ballot. Overall, 46% of registered voters support or lean toward the Democratic candidate in their district, while 44% favor the Republican. This reflects virtually unanimous support from partisans (93% of Republicans plan to vote Republican, 91% of Democrats plan to vote Democratic), and a slight Democratic leaning among independents (44% favor the Democratic candidate, 36% the Republican).

Despite Bush’s high approval ratings, he is not demonstrating unusually long coattails. Overall, 57% of those who approve of Bush’s job in office plan to vote Republican this fall, while 35% say they will vote Democratic. This is somewhat less than Clinton’s pull in the summer of 1998, when 66% of those who approved of Clinton’s job in office planned to vote Democratic, and 24% leaned Republican.

Republicans hold a 10-point lead among whites but continue to struggle among minorities — non-whites favor the Democrats by nearly four-to-one. Age and gender also are closely related to congressional leanings, with women and older people favoring Democrats more than men and young people do. Older men and younger women remain key swing groups, roughly evenly divided between the two parties.

Candidate Qualities, Local Concerns Dominate

Despite grave national concerns related to terrorism, a majority of Americans remain focused on state and local issues and the personal characteristics of the candidates. Just over a quarter (26%) say national issues will make the biggest difference in how they vote for Congress this fall, up only 4 points from 22% in the midterm elections of 1998 and 1994. As in the past, more people cite local or state issues (30%) or the candidate’s character and experience (33%) as most important. Democratic voters are somewhat more likely to emphasize issues (national, state or local) than those currently planning to vote Republican, who cite a candidate’s character, experience or party a bit more often.

Most voters (56%) say they want to hear the candidates in their state or district talk about domestic issues this fall, which is twice as many who say they want to hear about terrorism, national security or foreign policy combined (26%). The leading domestic issues are education and health care. Another 20% want to hear about economic issues. While education is of interest to both those leaning Democratic and Republican at this point, health care is of particular interest to Democratic voters.

Terrorism and national security are of greatest interest to older men, people in higher income ranges, and those who attended college. There also are significant differences across regions — just 12% of those in the West want to hear their candidates talk about terrorism and national security, compared with 20% of those in the Midwest and an even higher proportion of those in the South and the East (23% and 24%, respectively).

Nearly a third (31%) of those under age 30 want to hear the candidates talk about education — twice as many as among those age 50 and older (14%). Not surprisingly, the reverse is true for health care, which is of interest to 20% of people 50 and older, and just 8% of those under 50. Gender is also a factor, with women more interested in hearing about education policy than men, who in turn express more interest in the economy and taxes.

Voters Talk Terrorism, Domestic Issues

Voter interest in issues other than terrorism is borne out in what people are currently talking about with their friends and family. While a majority (55%) say they frequently discuss terrorism, nearly as many say they often talk about problems with health insurance and public education (53% and 51%, respectively). Four years ago, health insurance was a frequent topic of conversation for 47% of registered voters.

In addition, nearly half of voters (49%) say national economic conditions frequently come up as a topic of conversation, and the same number frequently talk about declining moral standards.

What people are talking about is highly related to what they want to hear their candidates discuss this fall. The three most common topics of conversation among voters currently intending to vote Republican are terrorism, declining moral standards, and public education. The three main topics of conversation among Democratic voters are health insurance, economic conditions and terrorism. Democratic voters also are more likely than GOP voters to frequently discuss Social Security, poverty, the environment, and business scandals like the Enron case.

Women hold conversations about nearly every political subject more than men do. This is particularly the case with Social Security and health insurance. Different generations also focus on different topics. Young people talk often about education, while retirees frequently converse about declining moral standards, problems with Social Security, and poverty. Health insurance and HMOs dominate discussion among those age 50-64, fully 69% of whom frequently discuss this topic.

Partisanship and Incumbency

Though very few say the candidate’s political party makes the biggest difference in how they vote for Congress, roughly half (47%) say the issue of which party controls Congress will be a factor in their vote, and Democrats are more concerned about this than Republicans. Democrats are somewhat more conscious of this than they were four years ago: 59% of Democrats say they are considering the partisan makeup of Congress as they vote this year, compared with half of Republicans and just 28% of independents. Older people and African-Americans are among the most likely to say they are thinking about which party controls Congress when they vote. But overall, party is no more of a focus in this year’s congressional races than was the case in the summer of 1998 or 2000.

Most voters (58%) say they would like to see their member of Congress reelected in November, and a plurality (45%) would like to see most members returned to office. These figures are comparable to trends from the 1998 midterm election. In 1994, the tumultuous election in which Republicans gained control of Congress, majorities favored reelecting their own member of Congress, but the majority wanted to see most members turned out.

People are no less enthusiastic about this year’s congressional midterm than was the case in 1998 or 1994, but there is no evidence of a public that is particularly engaged. The proportion who say they are less enthusiastic than usual about voting has dropped from 47% in 1998 to 36% today. But the reverse is not the case — 37% found the 1998 election to be more engaging than others, 39% say they feel this way today. Democrats and Republicans express about equal levels of enthusiasm at this stage in the election.

Partisan Bickering Returns

Half of the public approves of the job congressional Republican leaders are doing, down slightly from earlier this year, but still a higher approval rating than at any time since 1994. Congressional Democrats receive only slightly lower marks (47% approve, 36% disapprove). These modest approval ratings belie considerable public dissatisfaction with the way Congress is dealing with domestic and economic issues, and even some concerns about political haggling over terrorism policy.

In January, 53% said they thought Republicans and Democrats would work together more than usual to solve problems, while just 39% predicted greater levels of conflict. Today, 58% think partisanship has entered the terrorism debate, while 31% think politicians are still mostly working together.

This perception crosses party lines, but assessments of who is to blame does not. The vast majority of Republicans who see partisanship entering into congressional deliberations on terrorism blame Democratic leaders. Democrats tend to lay the blame on Bush and the Republicans, though many also say both parties are to blame. Many independents blame both parties equally when they see partisan conflict, but among those who blame one side or the other, twice as many point the finger at Democratic leaders in Congress than at Bush and the Republicans.

Poor Grades for the Hill

Despite the perception that politicians have begun to argue along party lines about terrorism, Congress receives generally favorable marks for the way it has handled terrorist threats with just 13% giving a grade of “D” or “F”, and the majority offering a grade of “A” (17%) or “B” (44%). But as is the case with Bush, the public is least satisfied with how Congress is handling health care and Social Security. Just 2% give Congress an “A” on each of these issues, while four-in-ten give it a grade of “D” or “Fail.”

Republicans give Congress considerably higher grades on nearly every issue, especially in handling the war on terrorism, dealing with the budget deficit and improving economic conditions in the nation. Younger people are also easier graders on a number of issues. For example, two-thirds of those below age 30 give Congress an “A” or “B” for its handling of terrorism, compared with 46% of those age 65 and older. And younger people are twice as likely as seniors to give Congress good marks for its handling of recent business scandals (32% to 17%).

Overall, while most Americans say this Congress has accomplished about the same amount as other recent sessions, 22% say it has done less than most, up from 15% in the summers of 2000 and 1998. This view is more widespread among Democrats, 28% of whom think the current Congress is not living up to its predecessors. Just 13% of Republicans share this opinion.

Criticism of Congress’s performance may work against Republicans in the upcoming elections. Independents who think the current Congress is underperforming compared with recent sessions favor the Democratic candidate in their district by more than two to one. Independents who think Congress is at or above average in performance are evenly divided in the congressional test ballot.

Bush: Foreign Strength, Domestic Weakness

The president’s overall ratings remain impressive. Nearly half of Americans (46%) say they approve of Bush’s job very strongly, while just 8% disapprove very strongly. But the president’s standing appears to hinge largely on evaluations of his handling of foreign policy and terrorist threats. The public is far more critical when it comes to a number of domestic policies, particularly health care and Social Security.

Americans approve of the way Bush is handling terrorist threats by four-to-one (74% approve, 18% disapprove). Even a majority of Democrats (61%) are satisfied with his performance in this area.

Similarly, by more than two-to-one (64% to 28%) the public approves of how the president is dealing with the situation in the Middle East. This is a vast improvement from last summer, when just 45% approved of his policies in this area and 35% disapproved.

The president’s weaknesses, in the public’s view, lie here at home. Nearly half (46%) disapprove of the way Bush is handling health care policy, while just 37% approve. This is comparable to the public’s evaluation of Clinton on this issue in mid-1994, following his broad health care reform proposal. And there is considerable skepticism of the way Bush is handling Social Security, with 36% approving and 42% disapproving.

The public is split over the way Bush has handled recent business scandals (40% approve, 38% disapprove), and it is equally divided over Bush’s energy policy (41% approve, 39% disapprove). As recently as March, 57% approved of Bush’s handling of energy issues in a Gallup poll. Bush gets slightly higher marks for how he has handled tax policy (45% approve, 39% disapprove), but there is a particularly wide partisan gap here (69% of Republicans approve, 28% of Democrats), and Bush’s support is notably low among older Americans on this issue.

The president gets better marks for his handling of the environment and the jobs situation. On both issues, half approve of his job performance, while fewer than four-in-ten disapprove. While half of college graduates disapprove of Bush’s performance on the environment, most of those who never went to college approve (57% to 30%).

Bush’s handling of education also has slipped since the beginning of the year, but remains relatively high. Today, 56% approve of his performance on this issue, compared with 63% in an April Gallup poll. Roughly the same proportion (59%) approves of the way the president is handling race relations.

Not surprisingly, there are enormous partisan gaps in perceptions of the president’s performance. Overall, 95% of Republicans approve of the job Bush is doing, compared with just over half (53%) of Democrats and two-thirds of independents. Democrats and Republicans disagree on every aspect of Bush’s performance, with the widest partisan gaps over the economy, tax policy, and jobs.

In almost all cases, the ratings of independents are closer to the views of Democrats than Republicans. In particular, pluralities of both Democrats and independents disapprove of Bush’s handling of the environment, while fully three-quarters of Republicans take a more favorable view. And just one-quarter of independents and Democrats (26%) approve of Bush’s handling of health care policy, compared with 61% of Republicans. On jobs, energy policy, race relations, education and Social Security, independents’ assessments of Bush are far more similar to those of Democrats than Republicans.

Declining Ratings on Economy

Just over half the public (53%) approves of the way Bush is handling the economy, while 36% disapprove. This represents a significant drop from January, when 60% approved and 28% disapproved.

Perhaps more important, the proportion of people who think Bush could be doing more in this area has risen dramatically. In January, Americans were divided over whether the president was doing as much as he could to improve economic conditions (48%) or whether he could be doing more (46%). Today, just one-third think he is doing all he can, while a clear majority (62%) say he could do more.

This shift has been most noticeable among people in the middle- to upper-middle income range. In January, 53% of those in households earning $30,000- $75,000 annually were satisfied with Bush’s efforts to improve the economy, an even greater level of satisfaction than among wealthier Americans. Today, just a third (33%) of this middle-income group is content with Bush’s efforts, while 64% think he could be doing more.

While there is a gap in how Democrats and Republicans evaluate all aspects of the president’s performance, this gap is growing the most extreme with respect to the economy. Today, just one-third of Democrats have a favorable view of Bush’s performance in this area, compared with 78% of Republicans. This reflects a 12-point drop in approval among Democrats, compared with just a two-point drop among the president’s partisans. Independents remain in the middle, though approval of Bush’s handling of the economy has fallen 10 points since January within this group.

Public Less Bullish on Economy

The president’s declining marks on the economy are tied to the public’s overall attitudes in this area. Early this year, the public was bullish about prospects for an economic turnaround, but that optimism has faded considerably. And for the most part, this is related to concerns over a tightening job market, rather than a major deterioration in Americans’ personal financial situations. Nearly half of Americans (46%) think the economy will stay the same over the next 12 months, while 30% expect things to improve and 20% believe the economy will worsen. That represents a major shift since January when a 44% plurality expected the economy to pick up over the next 12 months. The January measure was the highest on this question dating back nearly two decades, reflecting the public’s determined economic optimism in the face of the terror attacks and war. The current measure is still an improvement on the 18% who were anticipating better economic times in January 2001.

Republicans and independents are less optimistic than they were in January, but continue to be more upbeat than Democrats. Four-in-ten Republicans think the economy will improve, down from 55% in January. Independents also are significantly less optimistic (45% January, 28% now). Among Democrats, who were already less optimistic early this year, there has been less drop-off (34% then, 24% now).

Little Change on Personal Finances

Most Americans rate their personal finances as fair (37%) or poor (16%). Fewer say they are in excellent or good shape economically (5% excellent, 40% good). These evaluations have changed little since last June, when the same proportion rated their finances as good or excellent. In the same vein, people’s personal financial outlooks have remained stable in the past year. A majority (55%) expect their financial situation will improve “some” over the next year, while 11% think they will see a great deal of improvement. As in the past, affluent Americans, Republicans and younger people are among the most likely to express optimism about their future finances. Fully three-quarters of those under age 50 (76%) expect at least some financial improvement over the next year, compared with just 48% of those age 50 and older.

Even during the boom years of the late 1990s, a majority of Americans said they did not earn enough money to lead the kind of life they wanted. That sense of economic yearning persists, and it is no more pronounced now than it was during the boom; while 43% are content with the amount they earn, 56% are not. In January 2001, when the economy was slowing down, and in September 1998, as the stock market roared, there was virtually the same level of dissatisfaction with earnings. Among those who do not feel they earn enough, however, there has been a modest decline over the past three years in the number who feel they will eventually make enough to afford the sort of life they desire. The number who felt optimistic they would make enough in the future fell from 38% in August 1999 to 33% early last year to 30% in the current survey.

Many Say Jobs Getting Scarce

Growing concerns over the jobs picture are coloring these financial attitudes and may well be undercutting hopes for an economic turnaround. Fully 59% of respondents say jobs are difficult to find in their community, a sharp increase from 44% who said that a year ago. Just 31% say jobs are plentiful, a decline from 42% last June.

Worries over the availability of jobs had been largely limited to those living in small towns and rural areas and those with lower incomes. But now those concerns are shared by suburbanites, city dwellers and affluent Americans. Last June, more than half of those living in suburbs (56%) said jobs were plentiful, as did 48% of residents of large cities. Now just 38% of those in suburbs, and 36% of city dwellers, say there is a sufficient number of jobs. In small towns and rural areas, where concerns over jobs were already widespread, there has been less of a decline in the number saying jobs are in ample supply.

A year ago, 61% of those with family incomes of at least $75,000 a year said jobs were plentiful, just 27% said jobs are hard to come by. In the current survey, just 41% in this income group say there are plenty of jobs in their communities, while half say jobs are difficult to find.

Affordable Health Care Top Concern

The public is anxious over a number of domestic issues, but health care tops the list. Fully 61% say they are very concerned that they will be unable to afford needed health care if a family member falls ill, while another 18% say they are somewhat concerned. That outpaces concerns over college and retirement savings, losing a job or taking a pay cut, and having adequate child care.

The proportion expressing concern over these issues has changed little in recent years. Since 1999, roughly six-in-ten have expressed a great deal of concern over affording health care, and consistent majorities have said the same about funding their retirement and their children’s college education. However, reflecting the heightened worries about jobs, 40% say they are very concerned about losing their job or taking a pay cut, compared with 34% who said that in February 2001.

Those with lower incomes and less education, minorities and Democrats continue to express higher levels of concern than other groups. In addition, there is a gender gap on concerns — women are more likely than men to say they worry about meeting these financial commitments. Finding affordable health care is especially worrisome to women age 50 and older: 72% say they are very concerned about this, far more than men in that age group (58%), and younger men and women (55%, 60% respectively).

Less Confidence in Corporations

The recent spate of business scandals is taking a toll on the image of corporate America. More than a third of the public (35%) says it has no real confidence in business fulfilling its responsibilities, up sharply from 21% since February. The number expressing at least some confidence has fallen from 76% to 62% over the same period.

Virtually all demographic and political groups are expressing less confidence in corporations. More independents and Democrats, in particular, have become disillusioned with business. Four-in-ten independents and virtually the same proportion of Democrats say they have no real confidence in corporations; in February, only about a quarter of both groups expressed minimal confidence in business to live up to its public responsibilities. There has been less erosion in confidence among Republicans.

Terrorism Fears Rise

The public’s worries about a new terrorist attack on the United States are now at their highest level since last October. One-in-three (32%) say they are very worried about a new terrorist strike, up from 20% in January and just 13% in December. Overall, 76% of Americans are at least somewhat concerned over another attack.

People living in the Northeast, in particular, are showing heightened concern over terrorism. More than twice as many residents of this region express serious concern about a new attack than did so in January. Concerns also are on the rise in the South and West, but by smaller margins.

While more Americans are very worried about an attack on the nation, personal fears about terrorism have not risen as sharply. The number who worry that they or their families will fall victim to terrorism has increased modestly, to 45% from 38% in January. Fewer than one-in-five (17%) say they are very worried, up from 12% in January. Those with less education are more likely than college graduates to express serious concern: 23% of those with no more than a high school degree, compared with just 6% of college graduates.

Government Ratings Fall

As fears over new attacks have increased, fewer Americans are giving the government high marks in its attempts to reduce terrorism. Just 16% say the government is doing very well with this, compared with 35% who said that last November, and 48% in mid-October. And while most (60%) say the government is doing fairly well, the number who rate its efforts as poor has increased from 14% to 20%.

Partisan affiliation plays a role in these evaluations. Roughly twice as many Republicans (25%) as Democrats (11%) and independents (13%) say the government has been doing very well in reducing the threat of terrorism.

With the increase in worries, the public has shifted its priorities in the war on terrorism from an active role of destroying terrorist networks around the world to a preventive role of building defenses at home. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, a plurality believed military action was more important than building defenses at home. Currently, the public gives greater priority to defenses at home, by a 51%-34% margin.

Women continue to place more emphasis on building homeland defenses. Nearly six-in-ten women (57%) favor building domestic defenses, compared with 45% of men. Similarly, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to give greater priority to building domestic anti-terrorism defenses (56% of Democrats vs. 45% of Republicans).

Middle Easterners Raise More Suspicions

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, a minority of Americans (28%) said they had become more suspicious of people who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent. That minority is growing, and today 36% of the public acknowledge that the attacks have made them more suspicious of people who appear to be of Middle Eastern descent.

In September, college graduates were significantly less likely to express these suspicions than people who had not attended college, but this gap has narrowed. Today, a third of college graduates say they have become more suspicious of people who appear to be of Middle Eastern descent, up from 21% nine months ago. And a growing number of Republicans and independents say they have become more wary. Four-in-ten Republicans say they are more suspicious of people who they think are of Middle Eastern descent, up from 29% in September. In addition, nearly half (46%) of those who paid very close attention to the capture of the “dirty bomb” suspect say they are more suspicious of people they think are of Middle Eastern descent.

More Worry About Civil Liberties

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, only a third of Americans worried that the government’s new anti-terrorism laws would excessively restrict the average person’s civil liberties, while 39% worried the government wouldn’t go far enough. But the balance of concern has gradually shifted: 49% now say they worry about new laws that may undermine civil liberties, while 35% are concerned that the government will not enact tough anti-terrorism laws.

There are major political differences on this issue. Half of Republicans are more concerned that the government will fail to get tough enough, while 37% say the greater worry is that it will go too far. By contrast, Democrats are more concerned with eroding civil liberties (by 53%-28%), and independents also are much more worried about restricting civil liberties (61%-29%). In the same vein, fewer Americans believe it will be necessary for the average citizen to give up civil liberties in the struggle against terrorism. Last September, 55% said such sacrifices would be necessary; an identical number said that in the January survey. Currently, 49% think the average citizen will have to give up some civil liberties, while 45% disagree.

But Still, Lock Them Up!

Despite this growing concern over civil liberties, most Americans favor the government’s policy of holding U.S. citizens without trial in cases of suspected terrorism. Although there is widespread concern that this action will undermine traditional legal protections, 55% back the policy while 36% are opposed.

A majority (53%) say they are at least somewhat worried about the policy’s impact on legal protections, and 22% say they worry a great deal. Yet even among those who have such concerns, just half oppose the policy, while 43% favor it. Not surprisingly, those who do not worry about the policy’s legal implications overwhelmingly support holding U.S. terrorism suspects indefinitely (72%-21%).

Fully seven-in-ten Republicans (71%) favor the policy, and Republicans are far less concerned than Democrats and independents that it will undermine legal protections. Despite expressing reservations, however, roughly half of Democrats and independents also favor the policy of holding suspected U.S. terrorists without trial.

Mideast Sympathies Little Changed

The public continues to strongly side with Israel in the Middle East conflict. By nearly four-to-one (46%-12%), Americans sympathize more with the Israelis than the Palestinians. While there is strong sympathy for Israel across all demographic and political groups, conservative Republicans stand out for their overwhelming backing for Israel.

Fully two-thirds of conservative Republicans (66%) say they sympathize more with Israel, while just 6% side with the Palestinians. Among ideological groups, liberal Democrats are most likely to express more sympathy for the Palestinians (23%), but far more say they side more with Israel (41%).

While both sides in the Middle East conflict have accused the media of bias, the public regards press coverage of the region as unbiased. If anything, more Americans see the media as tilting in favor of Israel (27%) rather than the Palestinians (8%). But a sizable plurality (47%) believes news organizations have shown no bias in their coverage.

Half of those who sympathize with Israel view the press coverage of the Middle East as unbiased. Among those who see bias, twice as many say it favors Israel rather than the Palestinians (25% vs. 13%). Those who sympathize with the Palestinians, by contrast, are much more likely to see bias, and half say the coverage is tilted in favor of Israel.

College graduates and liberal Democrats are among the most likely to say that the media is biased in favor of Israel. Conservative Republicans are the only group in which a significant minority (19%) sees pro-Palestinian bias; still, more (24%) say news organizations favor Israel and a plurality (45%) views the coverage as fair.

Deterrence Preferred Over Preemption

As the Bush administration proposes modifying its defense policy to include the option of preemptive strikes against potential enemies, the public rates this option as effective, but not its preferred approach. When asked to evaluate two policies for protecting the United States — a traditional policy of deterrence and the new policy of preemptive strikes — substantial majorities of Americans see both as effective. But when asked which policy they prefer, the public strongly favors deterrence over the proposed first-strike policy.

Three-in-four Americans (74%) say that deterrence — in which enemies know they would be destroyed if they attacked the U.S. — is an effective method for protecting the country. Somewhat fewer, but still a significant majority (63%) also rate preemptive strikes as effective. Both policies are rated more highly by whites than by minorities, by Republicans than by Democrats or independents, and by conservatives.

While both defense policies are viewed as effective, the public strongly favors deterrence to first strikes (66% vs. 25%). This is especially true among women and younger people, but there is agreement regardless of race, political party or ideology. By a margin of two-to-one or more, Americans of every political ideology prefer a policy of threatening to destroy those who attack the U.S. to a strike-first policy. Even among Americans who rate preemptive strikes as more effective than deterrence, 50% favor a policy of deterrence, compared with 43% who prefer preemption.

Homeland Defense Top New Story, Followed by Priests

The public paid close attention to a broader range of news stories this month than is usually the case. Three-in-ten or more followed seven stories very closely. But once again, Americans continue to follow news stories about defending against terrorist attacks in the U.S. more closely than they follow any other story.

Nearly half of the public (45%) paid very close attention to news stories about defending against terror attacks, with 80% following them very or fairly closely. Stories on related subjects also drew large audiences. About one-third of Americans very closely followed reports that the FBI and CIA had prior information of the Sept. 11 attacks (32%), and stories on the arrest of a man for planning a “dirty bomb” attack (30%).

Interest in the war in Afghanistan remains high, though it has slipped somewhat. Almost four-in-ten (38%) still follow the war very closely, about the same as in April (39%). But the number following the story fairly closely has dropped to 32% (from 39% in April). For the first time since that war began, nearly three-in-ten Americans are not following the story closely (29%).

For foreign news stories, a familiar pattern continues: Interest is highest for reports linked to the war on terror and about the continued violence in the Middle East. Nearly four-in-ten Americans (38%) continue to follow reports of violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis very closely, with 33% following fairly closely. But interest in reports of tensions between India and Pakistan is somewhat lower despite recent reports that the countries were on the brink of nuclear war: 24% are following closely, basically unchanged since January (23%).

At home, interest in reports of sexual abuse by Catholic priests has continued to grow in the wake of the June meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Today, 38% percent of Americans are following that story very closely and 36% are following it fairly closely (compared with 27% and 34%, respectively, in April). Interest in this story is particularly high among women (42%, compared with 34% of men) and older Americans. As found in previous Pew surveys since the case near Boston first attracted national attention in February, more people in the Northeast are following it very closely (45%). And predictably, more Catholics than members of other religions are following this story very closely—45% of white, non-Hispanic Catholics, compared with 34% of white Protestants.

Reports of wildfires in Colorado and other Western states were followed closely by 30% of the public, including 39% Westerners. But only 10% of all Americans followed the World Cup soccer championship held in Japan and South Korea very closely—though among Hispanics, the share was 22%.