Summary of Findings
The public’s perceptions of economic news remain mixed, but continue to be much more negative than they were earlier this year.
About half of the public (54%) says they are hearing a mix of good and bad news about the economy these days, while 41% say they are hearing mostly bad news.
These views are little changed from July and August. From January through June, however, roughly two-thirds said they were hearing mixed news about the economy while about three-in-ten said the news was mostly bad. The percentage hearing good news has remained very low since late 2008; currently just 3% say they are hearing mostly good news about the economy.
The latest News Interest Index survey of 1,002 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds that the economy topped the public’s news interest last week; 29% say they followed news about the economy more closely than other major stories. Hurricane Earl was the top story in terms of news coverage, accounting for 13% of the newshole, according to a separate analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ). The economy accounted for 9% of coverage, putting it second on the PEJ list.
Perceptions of news about specific sectors of the economy also have changed little since early July – except for views of news aboutreal estate values. Currently, 57% say news aboutreal estatevalues is mostly bad, up from 49% in early July and 41% in early May.
Views of Economic News Little Changed
Republicans are much more likely to say they are hearing mostly bad news about the economy than are Democrats (56% vs. 31%), while independents fall in between (44%).
About six-in-ten Democrats (62%) say they are hearing mixed news about the economy, compared with 41% of Republicans and 53% of independents. Few in any group say they are hearing mostly good news. These views are little changed since August.
However, those who are tracking economic news very closely have a more negative perception of what they are hearing about the economy. Currently, about half (49%) of those tracking economic news very closely say the news is mostly bad, up from 41% last month. Opinions among those who are following this news less closely are essentially unchanged (35% mostly bad now, 36% in August).
Views of News about Jobs, Housing, Markets and Prices
Looking at different aspects of the economy, nearly six-in-ten (57%) say they have been hearing mostly bad news about real estate values. That is up from 49% in early July and 41% in May. About a third (32%) say they have been hearing mixed news, essentially unchanged from the 35% that said this in July but down from 42% in May.
The changing perceptions came amid reports about plunging housing sales in July – despite low mortgage interest rates. There are no significant differences among partisans on this question.
Views of other aspects of the economy show little change since July. Amid continuing high unemployment, 65% say they are hearing mostly bad news about the job situation. A similar percentage said this in July (64%), though that represented a jump from 52% in May.
Views of news about the financial markets and consumer prices are little changed in recent months: 40% say news about financial markets is mixed (43% say mostly bad) while 42% say news about consumer prices is mixed (35% say mostly bad).
Which Party Will Control the House?
About four-in-ten Americans (41%) say that – from what they have read and heard – they think it is more likely that Republicans will regain a majority of seats in the House than the Democrats will maintain their majority (34%) in the 2010 elections. Those numbers are essentially unchanged from when the question was first asked July 15-18. At that point, 40% said the GOP would take control and 33% said Democrats would hold on to enough seats to maintain their majority.
Among those following election news very closely, more than twice as many say Republicans are more likely to gain control of the House than Democrats are to maintain their majority (63% vs. 30%). Among those following less closely, 35% see the Democrats holding on to their majority, 33% see the Republicans gaining control and 32% say they do not know.
Views among partisans are essentially unchanged since mid-July. About three-quarters of Republicans (74% in both surveys) say they think it is more likely that the GOP will regain a majority than the Democrats will hold on to theirs (8% now, 11% in July). On the other hand, Democrats are as likely as they were in July (61% in each survey) to say their party will hold on to its majority. Two-in-ten say Republicans are more likely to gain control, about the same as the 21% that said this in July.
Among independents, 41% say Republicans are more likely to gain control (44% said this in July), while 33% say Democrats are more likely to retain their majority (25% said this in July). More than quarter of independents (27%) say they do not know.
The Week’s News
News about the economy topped the public’s news interest last week, but Americans also showed strong interest in Hurricane Earl and news about the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq.
About two-in-ten (19%) say they followed news about Earl more closely than other top news as the hurricane threatened much of the east coast. Nearly three-in-ten (28%) say they followed news about Earl very closely. According to PEJ, the media devoted 13% of coverage to the hurricane, which ultimately weakened to a tropical storm.
Another 17% say they followed news about Iraq and the combat troop withdrawal most closely; 36% say they followed this news very closely. News about the official end of combat operations in Iraq accounted for 8% of coverage.
One-in-ten say they followed news about immigration issues most closely, while three-in-ten say they followed this news very closely. News about immigration amounted to 2% of the newshole.
Nearly one-in-ten (8%) say they followed news about this year’s congressional elections most closely; 26% say they followed this news very closely. News about primaries and the fight for control of Congress accounted for 9% of coverage.
Just 3% say they followed news about the start of peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders most closely; 14% say they followed this news very closely. News about the talks in Washington made up 5% of coverage.
On three of last week’s top stories, Republicans showed greater interest than Democrats or independents. Close to four-in-ten Republicans (39%) say they followed news about the 2010 elections very closely, compared with 23% of Democrats and 21% of independents.
More than half (54%) of Republicans say they followed news about the economy very closely, compared with 43% of Democrats and 40% of independents. And 42% of Republicans say they followed immigration news very closely, compared with 24% of Democrats and 33% of independents.
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 n
ews 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 August 30-September 5, and survey data measuring public interest in the top news stories of the week were collected September 2-6, from a nationally representative sample of 1,002 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 www.pewresearch.org/journalism.) The News Interest Index survey collects data from Thursday through Sunday 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 1,002 adults living in the continental United States, 18 years of age or older, from September 2-6, 2010 (672 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 330 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 126 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.