Summary of Findings

Americans continued to follow the health care debate more closely than any other news story last week, and the public sees the odds of a reform bill ultimately being passed increasing. In the latest weekly News Interest Index survey, conducted Dec. 18-21 among 1,018 adults nationwide, 61% say they think a health reform bill will pass over the next year, while 34% think it will not. That is the most positive assessment in two months of tracking the public’s outlook.

And the events of the weekend did not go unnoticed. As news that Democrats had finally built the 60 vote supermajority needed to pass the legislation through the Senate, the share saying a reform bill would pass rose from 56% in interviews conducted Friday and Saturday to 64% in interviews conducted Sunday and Monday.

Overall, 37% of Americans cite the health care reform debate as the single news story they followed most closely this past week, while 18% cite news about the economy. These figures are largely unchanged from the previous week. Continuing reports about Tiger Woods remains a major story for some Americans. Roughly one-in-seven Americans (14%) say they followed news about Tiger Woods more closely than any other story. The international forum on climate change in Copenhagen attracted less focus – just 5% say that was their top news story this past week.

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, survey data measuring public interest in the top news stories of the week were collected December 18-21, 2009, from a nationally representative sample of 1,018 adults.

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 Monday through Sunday) PEJ compiles this data to identify the top stories for the week. The News Interest Index survey collects 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 landline 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 4 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