It's no wonder most Americans aren't interested in the 2012 campaign yet -- according to a new survey out by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, more than half of them, 53 percent, can't name a single GOP candidate when asked which one they had heard about the most.
Leading the pack right now is Donald Trump, whom 26 of Americans named when asked about the most public contender. The number was even higher among Republicans, at 39 percent. The business mogul has made headlines in recent weeks for calling on President Obama to reveal his birth certificate to the public, which the president’s campaign did in 2008. Trump has not formally declared a candidacy, but is expected to make an announcement about his future by June.
Second up is Mitt Romney, at only 9 percent. Sarah Palin comes in third at 4 percent, and Mike Huckabee fourth with 2 percent. Only 1 percent of people claimed to have heard the most about Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty.
The low level of recognition can likely be attributed to the fact that none of the name candidates have formally entered the race. Only Romney, Gingrich, and Pawlenty have taken the baby steps of forming exploratory committees. Only about 20 percent said they were following the 2012 presidential race closely. The disaster in Japan, oil and gas prices, the economy, deficit and national debt, and Libya all beat out the election in terms of interest among responders.
And news coverage didn’t reflect what people were most interested in.
During the poll period, from April 14 to 17, the story that garnered the most American interest was oil and gas prices. Although 53 percent of respondents said they were following the story very closely, it only received 1 percent of news coverage. Other stories that people followed closely were the economy at 44 percent and the disaster in Japan at 38 percent. The deficit and national debt stories and Libya also drew more interest than the 2012 race.
By contrast, the media was most interested in the debate over the federal deficit and debt, to which it devoted about 31 percent of coverage -- the highest percentage of any subject about which recipients were surveyed. Although 36 percent of Americans followed the story, only 14 percent said it was the one they followed most closely (Japan was highest at 26 percent, followed by oil and gas prices at 22 percent).
The survey also explored possible reasons behind the low interest in deficit coverage: 73 percent said it seemed like the news never seemed to change and 55 percent said they didn’t feel like they had enough background to follow it. And nearly half of people polled, 49 percent, said the budget news just made them depressed.
Data relating to news coverage was collected April 11-17, and survey data measuring public interest in the top news stories of the week was collected April 14-17 from a nationally representative sample of 1,015 adults with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.