Wire: Pew Poll Finds Most Americans Say They Lack Background to Follow Afghan News
Off the Wire:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported that the latest weekly News Interest Index survey, conducted October 16-19 among 1,004 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, finds that public interest in the war in Afghanistan continues to be fairly modest. Only about one-in-ten (9%) cite the war as their top story for the week, which is less than the percentage (14%) that mentioned the story of a boy thought to be aboard a runaway balloon who was later found safe, and the proportion citing swine flu news (20%).
Pew said that the public expresses a range of feelings about the news about the war in Afghanistan: a majority (56%) often feels that "it seems like the same news about the war in Afghanistan all the time, nothing ever really changes"; 42% say they do not often feel this way.
Over half (53%) say they do not always have enough background information to follow the news about Afghanistan.
Nearly as many (53%) say they do not always have enough background information to follow the news about Afghanistan. By contrast, far fewer Americans (26%) say the news about the war is so depressing they would prefer not to follow it. Only 20% say they feel guilty about not following news from the war in Afghanistan more closely.Pew also reported their findings on Americans' views of Afghanistan News.
Most Americans are unable to correctly estimate the number U.S. military personnel that have been killed in the war in Afghanistan. Just 25% correctly estimate 900 as the fatality count for the war in Afghanistan. Most people (52%) overestimate rather than underestimate the number of U.S. fatalities: 25% say around 1,500 have been killed, while 27% estimate the military death toll at around 2,500. By contrast, a plurality (42%) correctly estimates U.S. troop deaths in Iraq at about 4,300.
Notably, paying very close attention to either conflict, does not significantly improve the chances of knowing the fatality count for a given war. Those following the Afghanistan war very closely or the Iraq war very closely are no more likely than the public at large to correctly estimate the fatality level of each respective war.
Those following the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan very closely express different views on war coverage than those following Afghanistan news less closely – especially those following Afghanistan news the least closely.Pew finds more Americans trust the military than the press on Afghanistan.
About four-in-ten (42%) of those following news about the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan very closely say it is the same news all the time with nothing ever really changing; most (56%) do not feel this way. By contrast, 68% of those who follow news about the war not too or not at all closely see it as unchanging.
Similarly, highly attentive Afghanistan news followers do not feel they lack the background information to follow war news (40% say they lack background information, 58% say they do not). The balance of opinion among the less-attentive is the reverse: majorities say they do not always have enough background information to follow the news about the war in Afghanistan.
In addition, 38% of those who do not follow Afghanistan closely say the news can be so depressing they would rather not hear about it; 27% say they feel guilty about not following the news from Afghanistan more closely. Far fewer of those who pay closer attention to news about Afghanistan express these views.
Most Americans express either a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in the U.S. military to give the public an accurate picture of how the war in Afghanistan is going. Nearly three-quarters of Republicans (73%) have at least a fair amount of confidence in the military to give an accurate picture of how things are going, compared with 63% of independents and 54% of Democrats.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.
There is less confidence in the press to provide an accurate account of the war. Overall, 40% of the public expresses at least a fair amount of confidence in the press, compared with 59% who have not too much confidence or none at all. Just a third (33%) of Republicans and 37% of independents say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the press to give an accurate assessment of the war in Afghanistan. By contrast, Democrats express about the same level of confidence in the press (52% great deal/fair amount) as they do in the military (54%).
(Report from newswire sources.)
Source and data: Most Say They Lack Background to Follow Afghan News