Summary of Findings

Short videos produced for the internet are becoming an important component of campaign news. In some cases, candidates themselves are producing videos and releasing them on their campaign websites. Candidates also are seeing their own gaffes or embarrassing moments packaged in a brief video and put up on the web for all to see. And while these videos originate on the internet, more people are viewing them on TV than online.

This week’s News Interest Index poll tested four popular campaign-related videos to measure public awareness of each and to determine where people have seen the videos — on the internet or on television. Many Americans are aware of these videos, but most report that they have seen them on TV. The four videos included in the poll were Hillary and Bill Clinton’s parody of the final episode of “The Sopranos;” a video entitled “I got a crush on Obama;” footage of John McCain joking about bombing Iran; and a tape of John Edwards brushing his hair to the tune of “I Feel Pretty.” Fully 44% of the public have heard of at least one of the four videos and 27% have seen at least one.

Overall, the video of the Clintons was the most recognized: 32% of the public have heard about the video and 19% have actually seen it. Half as many (16%) have heard about the Obama video, which features a young woman who calls herself “Obama Girl,” while 8% have seen this video. Nearly as many (15%) have heard about the John Edwards video and 7% have seen it. Finally, 13% have heard of the McCain video and 6% have seen it. For each of the four videos tested in the poll, more than twice as many say they have viewed them on television as opposed to the internet.

The Clinton video was produced by the Clinton campaign and posted on the campaign’s website. Still, it was aired extensively on television news outlets. Fully 15% of the public first saw this video on television while 4% saw it first on the internet; another 13% say they have heard about it but not seen it. Similarly, 6% of the public first saw the Obama video on television, while 2% saw it first on the internet (8% have heard of it but not seen it).

A similar pattern can be seen for the Edwards and McCain videos: 5% say they watched the Edwards video on TV, 2% saw it on the internet. For the McCain video, 5% saw it first on television, 1% saw it on the internet.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to have heard about both the Clinton and Obama videos. Roughly equal proportions of Democrats and Republicans have heard about the McCain and Edwards videos.

Although the campaign websites and internet videos are often geared toward younger voters, older people are more likely to have heard about three of the four videos — the Clinton video, the McCain video and the Edwards video. In all three cases, people ages 50 and older are more aware of the video than are those under age 50. The Obama video is the only one that all age groups have heard about in roughly equal numbers.

Iraq and U.K. Terror Plot Top News Interests

In the news last week, the war in Iraq and the investigation into the London and Glasgow car bombs were the most closely followed stories. Though there was relatively little coverage of events on the ground in Iraq, more than a third of the public (36%) paid very close attention to the war, and 22% listed it as the single news story they followed more closely than any other. Only 3% of the national newshole was devoted to the Iraq war last week. The media focused much more heavily on the fallout from the terrorist attack in Glasgow and the near miss in London. That story filled 14% of the newshole, making it the most heavily covered story of the week.

The public generally approves of the media’s coverage of the recent terrorist events in the U.K. Nearly two-thirds give the press excellent (19%) or good (45%) marks for its coverage. Another 22% say the coverage has been only fair, and 7% rate it as poor. A majority of the public (57%) says news organizations are giving the right amount of coverage to this story. Only 19% say the story has received too much coverage, and a similar proportion (17%) say it has been under-covered.

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 agenda. 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 was collected from July 1-6, and survey data measuring public interest in the top news stories of the week was collected July 6-9 from a nationally representative sample of 1,017 adults.

Democrats Tune in to Libby Story

George Bush’s decision to commute Scooter Libby’s prison sentence was the second most heavily covered news story last week. Overall, 11% of the national newshole was devoted to this story. The story was covered most extensively on cable television with 20% of the news on that sector focused on Libby.

While coverage of Bush’s decision to commute Libby’s sentence was not quite as intense as coverage of the verdict had been, public interest in the story increased significantly. During Libby’s trial less than 10% of the public followed the story very closely, and just 13% paid very close attention to his guilty verdict in March. But 27% of the public paid very close attention to news of Bush’s decision to commute Libby’s sentence. Democrats are more interested than Republicans in this latest chapter (34% vs. 22% followed the Libby news very closely). Roughly one-in-ten Americans listed the Libby story as the one they followed more closely than any other this past week.

A quarter of the public (24%) followed news about the 2008 campaign very closely last week, and 10% listed this as their most closely followed story. The campaign was the third most heavily covered news story (8% of the newshole), and the dominant theme of the coverage was the candidates’ second-quarter fundraising totals. As has been the case for much of this year, Democrats paid closer attention than Republicans to campaign news (33% vs. 21% followed very closely).

The widespread flooding in Texas and the plains states attracted nearly as much interest as the presidential campaign, though much less news coverage. Roughly one-in-five Americans (21%) followed the floods very closely and 10% listed this as their most closely followed story. The national news media devoted 3% of its overall coverage to this story.

The Iraq policy debate heated up again last week, as prominent Republicans continued to speak out against the current administration’s policy. More than a quarter of the public (27%) paid very close attention to the debate in Washington over U.S. policy in Iraq, but only 4% listed this as their most closely followed story of the week. This story constituted 3% of the overall newshole.

About the News Interest Index

The News Interest Index is a weekly survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press aimed at gauging the public’s interest in and reaction to major news events.

This project has been undertaken in conjunction with the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s News Coverage Index, an ongoing content analysis of the news. The News Coverage Index catalogues the news from top news organizations across five major sectors of the media: newspapers, network television, cable television, radio and the internet. Each week (from Sunday through Friday) PEJ will compile this data to identify the top stories for the week. The News Interest Index survey will collect data from Friday through Monday to gauge public interest in the most covered stories of the week.

Results for the weekly surveys are based on telephone interviews among a nationwide sample of approximately 1,000 adults, 18 years of age or older, conducted under the direction of ORC (Opinion Research Corporation). For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls, and that results based on subgroups will have larger margins of error.

For more information about the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s News Coverage Index, go to