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09-22-2008, 11:38 PM
Americans More Tuned In Than Ever to Political New

Record interest in political news coincides with record distrust in media, USA Election 2008

Government and Politics Americas Northern America

-- A record-high 43% of Americans say they follow news about national politics very closely, up from 30% at this time last year and 36% during the last presidential election.

In the Sept. 8-11 Gallup Poll, an additional 44% say they follow political news "somewhat closely," meaning nearly 9 in 10 Americans (87%) are tuned in to the national political dialogue. This significantly exceeds anything Gallup has measured since it began asking this question in 1995. While it is common for attention to political news to increase in presidential election years, this month's 43% easily surpasses the 36% who in September 2004 said they were very closely following news about national politics.

The unprecedented upswing in interest in political news comes during a presidential election that, still more than six weeks from Election Day, is already historic many times over. Not only did election primaries and caucuses start earlier than ever, triggering a record early interest in the election, but they stayed competitive longer than they ever have, because of the extended Democratic primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Add in the back-and-forth nature of the horse race between Obama and Republican nominee John McCain, the historical firsts for Obama (as an African-American) and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin (as a Republican woman) and the promise that one of them will further make history by being elected, and Americans have more than enough reasons to pay attention.

Americans' hyper-vigilance also comes at a time when they have more news sources than ever to choose from.

In particular, the Internet and blogs have become a major source of election news -- so much so that a study released earlier this month by Northwestern University's Media Management Center found young adults to be "overwhelmed" by the amount of election news available online. Nonetheless, voters aged 18 to 29 are more interested than they have been in the past, with 31% saying they are following national political news very closely, up from 18% at this time during the last presidential election. Yet, because other age groups are paying about the same or more attention, younger voters remain the least engaged overall.