Only 28 percent know that nearly 4,000 U.S. troops have been killed
AMERICANS’ interest in the Iraq war is waning rapidly, fuelled by dwindling media attention to the conflict.
A survey shows that only 28% of the public is aware that nearly 4000 US personnel have died in Iraq over the past five years, while nearly half think the death tally is 3000 or fewer and 23% think it is higher.
The survey by the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press found that public awareness of developments in the Iraq war has dropped steeply as the media pay less attention. In earlier surveys, about half of those asked about the death tally responded correctly.
Related Pew surveys have found that the number of news stories devoted to the war has declined sharply this year, along with professed public interest.
“Coverage of the war has been virtually absent,” Pew survey research director Scott Keeter said. It totalled about 1% of news coverage between February 17 and 23.
The Iraq-associated median for 2007, he said, was 15% of all news stories, with major spikes when President George Bush announced a “surge” in forces in January of that year and when General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, testified before Congress in September.
“We try not to make any causal statements about the relationship between the absence of news and what the public knows,” Mr Keeter said, “but there’s certainly a correlation between the two. People are not seeing news about fatalities, and there isn’t much in the news about the war, whether it be military action or even political discussion related to it.”
Although Iraq topped the list of the public’s most closely followed news stories in all but five weeks during the first half of 2007, according to Pew’s research, interest fell rapidly and Iraq has not held the top spot since October.
That corresponded with a sharp drop in the rate of US casualties in Iraq and increased news coverage of the presidential campaign.
In the last week in January, 36% of those surveyed said they were most closely following campaign news, while 14% expressed the most interest in the stockmarket and 12% in the death of actor Heath Ledger. Only 6% said they were most closely following coverage of Iraq.
In a continuing wave of violence against US forces, three soldiers were killed on Wednesday and two others were wounded in a rocket attack on a base near Nasiriyah in the south-east.