The last 15 months has had some very big news stories, and a survey by UMR Research shows that they overshadowed the election.
Five of the ten highest profile news stories since tracking began in 2003 have occurred in the last 15 months, including four of the top six.
•96% closely followed the Christchurch earthquake and its aftermath, making it easily the highest profile issue since the series started.
•The next two highest issues are the September 2010 Canterbury earthquake (followed by 92%) and the Pike River disaster (followed by 88%).
•The All Blacks’ victory in the Rugby World Cup was followed by 83%. This would have been high enough to be the highest profile story in five of the nine years we have been running this series of questions. The previous record for a sporting event was the 69% who followed Team New Zealand’s victory in the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2007.
•The fifth story which is in the all-time top 10 is the June aftershocks in Christchurch. 79% closely followed this story, putting it in 3rd place for 2011 and 10th place overall.
Disasters and rugby were far more engaging than politics:
•65% say that they followed the election closely, putting it in 12th place for 2011. It comes in behind stories like the Rena grounding, the Japanese tsunami and nuclear crisis, August’s polar blast and Queensland’s Cyclone Yasi.
•While this is comparable with 2005 (64%) and 2008 (69%), those elections ranked 7th and 8th in their respective years.
•This suggests that the low turnout at the 2011 election may reflect not so much declining interest in politics, but simply the number of other higher profile stories around this year.
But if people were interested in politics wouldn’t they follow news about the election as well as the other events?
We have far more ways to access news and it is updated almost as it happens. But we can still choose to read/watch/listen to coverage of any or all events and issues, or not, and this year more people chose not to follow the election.