Public wants more news about the economy, but it's getting more election news instead

Pew Research Center | Project for Excellence in Journalism

The public's interest in news about the economy far outreaches media coverage of it for the second week in a row this year, with 20 percent of people surveyed saying it was the story they were following most closely, while only 6 percent of news coverage was devoted to it. The week before, 19 percent of people said it was their top story, while 8 percent of coverage was devoted to it. This discrepancy continues a trend from last year, during which the economy was one of the most closely followed stories 32 out of 52 weeks, and was the top story of 2011 with 20 percent of coverage devoted to it. And yet in December alone, there was about twice as much interest in the economy as there was coverage of it.

Even during weeks when the economy was the top story, interest surpassed coverage. For example, the week of Dec. 8, 41 percent of people said they were following the economy very closely; it was 13 percent of coverage that week. From Dec. 15-18, 36 percent said they were following it closely; it was 10 percent of coverage. Both of those weeks, the top story was the 2012 election, and coverage of it exceeded public interest. In fact, a just-released Pew study shows that campaign coverage "has come in place of attention that was being paid to the economy. From July 2011 to January 2012, the level of attention paid to the state of the economy has dropped by 80 percent. And that drop mirrors the increase in political coverage."

New data from Pew show "the campaign overtook the economy in November... when allegations about sexual harassment by Herman Cain became a major subject." So far, in 2012, about half of all news coverage (46 percent) has been about the election.

So why is journalism providing less economic news and more political news than people want? Speculate in the comments, and watch for our reporting on this subject in the days ahead.


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