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Survey: U.S. Public More Interested In Tucson Than Cairo

While the news media--particularly cable news outlets--may be blanketing the Middle East crisis, the U.S. public is not nearly as interested, according to the Pew Research Center's News Interest Index.

While news organizations gave 20% of their coverage to the Middle East story last week, according to the index only 11% of the public were most interested in the story over the Jan. 27-30 survey period, less than a third of those (38%) who were most-closely following the aftermath of the Tucson shootings and third behind the 28% who most closely followed the President's State of the Union speech. The disconnect there was huge, with only 4% of major news outlets' news holes devoted to that story.

The Pew survey was conducted Jan. 27-30 among 2,007 adults 18-plus.

While they may have been paying closer attention to Tucson, 17% said they were still following the Middle East situation closely, which puts it number three on Pews top 10 list of overseas protests behind the 18% who followed protests in Belgrade in 2000 and the 31% who followed the Iranian election crackdown in 2009, where social media's role in such protests was a big theme, as it has been in the Egypt story.

Interest in the president's State of the Union speech (the number-two story in terms of coverage with 17% of the news hole) was down from previous years and speeches, with only 12% saying they followed that most closely. The 28% saying they followed it closely was down from the 33% who said the same thing about the 2010 State of the Union speech and the 37% for the President's speech to a joint session of Congress shortly before taking office.

Not surprisingly, there was not much political union in the political breakout of the interest index, with 46% of Democrats saying they followed the speech very closely, compared to 19% of Republicans/independents.