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Is the Oil Spill Disappearing from the News?

- July 14, 2010

A little over a month ago, I suggested that the oil spill might not affect Obama’s popularity or the midterm elections because it would ultimately disappear from the news. I cited the concept of the issue-attention cycle (see here).

Below is some preliminary confirmation, courtesy of data from the Project for Excellence in Journalism. The data presented is the “percent of the newshole” given to the oil spill, where the newshole is defined as “the space devoted to each subject in print and online and time on radio and TV.” Here is more on PEJ’s sources and methodology.


Much as the issue-attention cycle suggests, there is a spike of coverage, but one that appears temporary. Although last week the oil spill still garnered more coverage than any other issue, it was a fraction of the coverage it received in June. If the well is fully capped, I would expect to see coverage decline further.

UPDATE: As evidence that this decline in news coverage affects opinion, consider the new Gallup poll, which showed an 11-point drop since June in the percent of people who consider “natural disaster response/relief” the most important problem facing the country.

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