Summary of Findings

While the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico has accounted for an overwhelming proportion of recent news coverage, most Americans say the press is giving the right amount of attention to the still-unfolding disaster.

The latest News Interest Index survey conducted June 17-20 among 1,009 adults by the Pew Research Center finds that 53% say the press has devoted the right amount of coverage to the disaster. Among the remainder, as many say news organizations are giving too little coverage to the leak (21%) as say too much coverage (19%). Last month, 59% said the press devoted the right amount of coverage to the leak.

Last week, news about the leak, which included a presidential address about the crisis, accounted for 44% of the newshole, the highest percentage since the story broke on April 20 with a deadly explosion on an offshore oil rig, according to a separate analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. That represents the highest amount of coverage for any news story since health care legislation was approved by Congress in March.

Public interest in the disaster remains strong. More than six-in-ten (63%) say they followed news about the oil leak more closely than any other story last week. A majority (56%) says the press has done an excellent or good job in covering the leak, though that is down from 66% in early May.

The Week’s News

With so much public attention focused on the oil leak, only small percentages say they followed any of the other top stories most closely last week. Just 10% say this about the second ranked story, news about the economy. Fewer name the World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa (6%), the situation and events in Afghanistan (3%), drug-related violence in Mexico (2%) or ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan (1%).

More than half of Americans (55%) say they followed news about the oil leak very closely last week, while 38% say the same about the economy. About one-in-five (21%) say they followed news about Afghanistan very closely. Almost as many say the same about drug violence in Mexico (17%); 11% followed news about the World Cup very closely and 6% followed news out of Kyrgyzstan very closely.

Similar patterns are seen in news coverage. The oil leak accounted for 44% of the newshole, far surpassing coverage of the economy (7%) and Afghanistan (5%). Drug-related violence in Mexico consumed less than 1% of all news coverage.

World Cup Interest Low, On Par With Past Tourneys

Just 11% of Americans say they are following the World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa very closely, about as many as said this about the 2006 tournament in Germany (8% very closely) or the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea (10%).

As is typically the case with sports stories, more men (14%) than women (8%) are following news about the World Cup. Interest is higher in the Northeast than in the South or Midwest. And more college graduates (15%) than those with no college experience (9%) say they are following the global soccer tournament very closely.

Independents (15%) are more likely than Republicans (7%) to say they are following news about the tournament very closely.

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, data relating to news coverage were collected June 14-20, and survey data measuring public interest in the top news stories of the week were collected June 17-20, from a nationally representative sample of 1,009 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. (For more information about the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s News Coverage Index, go to 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 this survey are based on telephone interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International among a national sample of 1,009 adults living in the continental United States, 18 years of age or older, from June 17-20, 2010 (678 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 331 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 104 who had no landline telephone). Both the landline and cell phone samples were provided by Survey Sampling International. Interviews were conducted in English.

The combined landline and cell phone sample are weighted using an iterative technique that matches gender, age, education, race, Hispanic origin, region, and population density to parameters from the March 2009 Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The sample is also weighted to match current patterns of telephone status based on extrapolations from the 2009 National Health Interview Survey. The weighting procedure also accounts for the fact that respondents with both landline and cell phones have a greater probability of being included in the combined sample and adjusts for household size within the landline sample. Sampling errors and statistical tests of significance take into account the effect of weighting. The following table shows the error attributable to sampling that would be expected at the 95% level of confidence for different groups in the survey:

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.