Just over half of the public (53%) say they followed news about Hurricane Sandy and the storm’s impact very closely last week, outpacing interest in the 2012 presidential election (47% very closely) and news about the U.S. economy (38% very closely).

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Nov. 1-4, 2012, among 1,011 adults, finds that interest in the storm is particularly high in the Northeast: fully 73% of those living in this region say they are following news about Sandy very closely, compared with 53% of those in the South, 46% of those in the Midwest and 43% of those in the West.

Interest in Hurricane Sandy is far higher than for Hurricane Isaac earlier this year (31% very closely) and ranks as one of the most closely followed storms in Pew Research surveys dating to 1989. Interest is comparable to that for Hurricane Ike in September 2008 (50% very closely), but remains well below the 70% who were following Hurricane Katrina very closely in September 2005.

Interest in 2012 Campaign Lags Behind 2008

Overall, 47% say they have been following news about the candidates for the 2012 presidential election very closely, down modestly from 52% a week ago. Campaign news interest has lagged behind measures from comparable points in 2008 in four out of the past five weeks. And the high mark for campaign interest measured in 2012 (52% in the Oct. 25-28 survey) is lower than the high measured in 2008 (61% in the Oct. 17-20, 2008 survey).

Views of Economic News

As has been the case throughout 2012, most Americans (55%) say they are hearing a mix of good and bad news about the U.S. economy. A third (33%) say they have been hearing mostly bad news about the economy, up slightly from October (28%). Just 10% are hearing mostly good news about the economy, though this, too, has risen since the summer. In August, just 3% said they were hearing mostly good economic news.

The percentage of independents who say they are hearing mostly bad news about the economy has risen over the past month. In the current survey, 38% of independents say the economic news they have been hearing is mostly bad, up from 29% at the start of October. Views of Republicans and Democrats are little changed.

Less Bad News about Gas Prices

While overall views of economic news have shifted only slightly, news about gas prices has improved dramatically since early October. Overall, half (50%) say they are hearing mostly bad news about gas prices, down 22 points from a month ago. More now say they are hearing a mix of good and bad news (30%) or mostly good news about gas prices (16%) than did so in October (21% and 4%, respectively).

News about other economic sectors has been more stable over the past month. Overall, 46% say they have been hearing mostly bad news about the job situation, 37% say they have been hearing mixed news, and just 14% say they have been hearing mostly good news.

News about real estate and financial markets remains mixed, with little change in views from October.