Trayvon Martin top news story among Americans above election, economy
(April 6, 2012) The growing controversy over the shooting death of
17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida was the publicís top story in
March, though African Americans express far greater interest in news
about the killing than do whites.
Overall, a quarter of Americans (25%) say they followed news about the
African American teenager killed by a community watch volunteer more
closely than any other story. Smaller percentages say they followed news
about the presidential elections (16%) or the economy (15%) most
closely, according to the latest weekly News Interest Index survey,
conducted March 22-25, 2012, among 1,003 adults by the Pew Research
Center for the People & the Press.
African Americans are more than twice as likely as whites to say that
this was their top story (52% vs. 20%). For African Americans, no other
story comes close. Whites followed election news about as closely as
Martinís death; 19% say this was their top story.
Looking at a separate measure, 35% of the public says they followed news
about the shooting and the still-unfolding controversy very closely.
Seven-in-ten blacks say this (70%), compared with 30% of whites.
Though the shooting occurred on Feb. 26, the controversy developed into
a major national story amid debates about racial attitudes and crime,
the thoroughness of the police investigation and a Florida law that
allows people to defend themselves with deadly force under certain
circumstances. News about the incident and its aftermath topped coverage
as well, accounting for 19% of the newshole, according to a separate
analysis by the Pew Research Centerís Project for Excellence in
Journalism. News about the presidential campaign accounted for 17% of
The gap between black and white attentiveness to news about the Trayvon
Martin story follows a pattern seen in other stories involving questions
about race and the law dating back more than 20 years. In March 1991,
for example, 66% of African Americans said they very closely followed
news about the videotaped beating of Rodney King, captured by Los
Angeles police after a car chase. About four-in-ten whites (43%) said
they followed this news very closely.
In the current survey, women say they followed news about the Florida
killing and the subsequent controversy more closely than men.
Four-in-ten women (40%) say they followed developments in the case very
closely, compared with 29% of men. About three-in-ten women (31%) say
this was the news they followed most closely; 19% of men say this.
Democrats also tracked news about the case more closely than Republicans
or independents. Half of Democrats (50%) say they followed this story
very closely, compared with 31% of Republicans and 26% of independents.
Nearly four-in-ten Democrats (38%) say this was their top story of the
week, compared with 15% of Republicans and 21% of independents. The 2012
campaign was the top story for Republicans (27% most closely).
The pattern among partisans largely holds when looking exclusively at
whites. Fully 45% of white Democrats say they followed developments in
the Martin shooting very closely, compared with 32% of white Republicans
and 21% of white independents.
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