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56% of Americans Say News Paints Mixed Economic Picture

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RISMEDIA, April 22, 2009-The proportion of Americans saying they are hearing a mix of good and bad news about the economy – rather than mostly bad news – continues to steadily increase.

Currently, 56% of Americans say they are hearing a mix of good and bad economic news, up from 46% in March and just 19% last December. The proportion saying they are hearing mostly bad news has fallen dramatically over this period – from 80% in December and 51% in March to 39% currently. Very few Americans – just 4% continue to say they are hearing mostly good economic news.

The latest weekly News Interest Index survey, conducted April 9-13 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, finds that the share saying they are hearing a mix of economic news has increased.

When asked about perceptions of news about their local economy, the public is narrowly divided. Still, people in states struggling to manage their finances are more likely than people in other states to say they are hearing mostly bad news about the economy in their area.

Last week, the public continued to track economic news more closely than other major stories. More than three-in-ten (31%) say they followed reports about the condition of the economy most closely. Economic news took up 13% of the newshole (counting stories about state and local budget troubles separately).

The change in perceptions on the tone of economic news comes amid signs that the worst decline in decades may be slowing. When asked about news concerning the economy in their local area, the public expresses fairly similar views about national economic news. Nearly half (49%) say they are hearing a mix of good and bad news, while 44% say they are hearing mostly bad news. Another 5% say they are hearing mostly good news.

However, people who say they have been following news about state and local budget problems very closely are more likely than those paying less attention to say the news they’ve been hearing about the local economy is mostly bad. A majority (52%) of those who followed the week’s state and local budget news very closely report that what they’ve been hearing about their local economy is mostly bad; that compares with 41% of those who were less attentive to news about state and local budget troubles.

The balance of good and bad news that people are hearing about their local economy may be related to how well their states are managing state finances. In those states receiving below-average grades for fiscal management in an analysis by the Pew Center on the States, half (50%) of the public reports hearing mostly bad news about the economy in their area; while 44% say they are hearing a mix of good and bad news. By contrast, those who live in states whose financial health is rated above average, a majority (53%) say they are hearing a mix of good and bad news about their local economy and fewer (38%) report hearing mostly bad news.

There is some difference in perceptions of national economic news however. Six-in-ten of those in the better performing states say they are hearing a mix of good and bad news about the broader economy, while 52% of those in the lowest rated states say the same.

In addition, there is somewhat greater interest in state and local budget problems in states that get lower ratings for fiscal management. A third (34%) of those living in states graded below average say they are following news about state and local budget problems very closely, compared to one-in-four (24%) in states ranked average or above average.

For more information, visit http://people-press.org/.

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