The Numbers Crunch: The Mideast rises again

From rocket fire, arms deals and explosions in Iran, security and defense stories are the most read this week.

December 9, 2011 12:11
4 minute read.
The Numbers Crunch

Numbers Crunch 311. (photo credit: Mrkay Design)


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Popular news topics online were wide and varied in the past week, both among Jerusalem Post readers and across the Web. In the US, Middle Eastern affairs rose up the list of most interesting current affairs issues, though domestic matters still took the top slots, and a Turkish football story made waves on Twitter.

On, it was all security and defense, with all five of the most-read stories directly related to tensions in the region. The stories spanned reports on arms deals and explosions in Iran, as well as an analysis on recent rocket-fire from Lebanon.

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The 5 most read stories

1. Iran military says it shot down US drone

2. Report: Russia delivers anti-ship missiles to Syria

3. Report: Blast in Iran struck uranium enrichment facility

4. Analysis: A sign of what Israel could face

5. Lebanese rockets – an indirect message?

Data from JPost talkback forums echoed similar sentiments, with the addition of a diplomatic story on Iceland, and a New York speech by US President Barack Obama.

Top Five most active threads

1. Panetta: Strike on Iran must be the last resort

2. Iran military says it shot down US drone

3. Lebanese rockets – an indirect message?

4. Iceland votes to recognize Palestinian state

5. Obama defends Israel policy at NYC fundraiser

In the US this week, Middle East affairs made it back into the top stories in terms of both interest and coverage, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Although regional issues didn’t feature as highly as they did during periods of heightened tensions over the past year, recent anti-UK riots in Tehran and parliamentary elections in Egypt both made it to the top stories.

Two percent of news coverage was devoted to Britain-Iran relations, and 5% to the Egyptian elections, according to the latest PRCindex. When asked which stories they followed “very closely,” 12% of respondents said the UK-Iran story and 7% Egyptian elections. Similarly, 3% of the population was found to be following the UK-Iran story the most closely, and just 1% was more interested in Egypt’s democratic process. By way of comparison, 30% of Americans found the economy the most interesting story, followed by 23% of news interest going to the 2012 elections.

In a rare social media occurrence, the second-most popular Middle Eastern trend on Twitter in the past week was sports-related. The tag #galatasaray, for the Turkish football team, came second only to the Egyptian elections in the Middle East, as an ongoing match-fixing scandal added fuel to an already fiery rivalry between two top Turkish teams. The regional spread of tweets can be seen in the screenshot below, taken from Trendsmap. Click on the image to zoom in or out on the map.

Meanwhile, in a recent quick vote, JPost readers made a big statement about their feelings for Obama: Almost 70% said that even a trip to Israel could not change the impression that the US president is unfriendly to Israel. A further 17% said that while they may welcome such a visit, it would need to be accompanied by an additional show of support for Israel.

And for this week’s random facts, we focus on global warming, as a tribute to the coldest start to Australia’s summer in 50 years, and the fact that this column was written Down Under. A recent PRC survey on the topic found:

• 63% of Americans see solid evidence that average temperatures have been rising over the past few decades.

• In October 2009, 57% expressed this view.
• 38% of Americans think that global warming is a very serious problem.
• In 2009, 35% expressed this view.
• 77% of Democrats believe that there is solid evidence that average temperatures have been rising over the past few decades, compared to 63% of independents and just 43% of Republicans.
• 33% of Americans don’t think global warming is too serious.
• 17% don’t think it’s a problem at all.

From news sites to blogs, tweets to videos, The Numbers Crunch is a weekly column which zooms out and brings you the big picture online, from Israel, the Middle East and around the world, and poll results from

The writer is the Internet desk manager at The Jerusalem Post.

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