June 7, 2007

Public Wants to Know More about Darfur and Many Favor U.S. Involvement

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As world leaders gather in Germany for the annual G-8 meeting, the humanitarian crisis in Darfur will be high on their agenda. Pew’s latest surveys find nearly half of Americans believing the United States has a moral obligation to do something about the ethnic genocide there, and a modest plurality thinking the U.S. should send troops. Clearly, many Americans want to learn more about the crisis; nearly five times as many Americans say the Darfur story has received too little news coverage as say it has gotten too much coverage.

About half of Americans (49%) believe the U.S. has a responsibility to “do something” about the ethnic genocide in Darfur, but about as many either say the U.S. has no responsibility to act (34%) or offer no opinion (17%). A narrow plurality (45%) favors the use of U.S. troops as part of a multinational force in Darfur, but the number supporting this approach has declined since December (from 53%).

People who have read or heard a lot about the conflict are significantly more likely to believe the United States has a responsibility to do something about the ethnic genocide in Sudan. Nearly three-quarters of those who have heard a lot about the Darfur situation (72%) say the United States has a responsibility to do something there, compared with just half of those who have heard a little about the crisis and only about a third (32%) who have heard nothing about it.

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There are signs that the public would like to hear more about the violence in Darfur. When asked whether news organizations are giving too much, too little, or the right amount of coverage to ethnic violence in Darfur, a plurality of the public (49%), says the issue is getting too little coverage. Only 10% say Darfur has gotten too much coverage and 27% say it has gotten the right amount of coverage.

On balance, the public believes that the past week’s other top news stories have gotten about the right amount of coverage. But a third says the 2008 presidential campaign is receiving too much coverage (only 12% say it is not getting enough coverage). About a quarter (26%) say news about the Atlanta man with tuberculosis was over-covered (only 14% say too little coverage).

For more on public attitudes, go to the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, released June 7.

Opinions about news coverage of Darfur are found in Pew’s weekly News Interest Index, which also was released on June 7.