The Numbers Crunch: Religion and politics in the US

Stories on Iran continue to flood the Top 5; Americans read up on Afghanistan and Syria; JPost joins Pintrest.

Numbers Crunch 311 (photo credit: Mrkay Design)
Numbers Crunch 311
(photo credit: Mrkay Design)
The Pew Research Center this week released a study on religion in 2011, wrapping up a particularly stormy year in the news. Coverage of religious issues dropped from 2 percent down to 0.7% in 2011, according to the PRC study. Six of the 10 top stories on religion cited by the study were focused on Islam, and that religion accounted for 31.3% of the “religion newshole.” Coverage of Judaism or related issues, by way of comparison, was summed up in “other religions” (aside from Islam, Mormanism and the various streams of Christianity), which accounted for 7.6% of coverage.
The main religion-related storyline in 2011, according to the poll, was religion in the 2012 election campaign. Also on the list were anti-Muslim sentiments in the US (6.7%), September 11 commemorations (4.2%), and the role of religion in the Arab Spring (3.4%).
Sticking with US news coverage, the PRC found that in the past week, violence in Afghanistan and Syria were the only non-domestic stories that garnered significant news interest. The story of clashes that broke out after copies of the Koran were burned at a US military base in Afghanistan was the most interesting of the week for 5% of respondents to the weekly survey. A further 17% said that they followed the story “very closely.” The story itself, however, took up only 3% of the newshole.
Again in keeping with previous weeks, the ongoing violence in Syria attracted what the PRC called “modest interest.” Four percent of respondents followed the story “most closely,” while 18% followed it “very closely.”
On, however, readers continued to follow stories about the Iranian nuclear threat most closely. Interestingly, with the exception of a story on new WikiLeaks revelations, all of these stories concerned statements made by Iranian, US and Israeli officials, rather than actual events related to Tehran’s nuclear program.
JPost Top Five most-read stories: 1. Iran: Military strike will lead to ‘collapse’ of Israel2. US envoy: Planning under way for other options on Iran3. Israeli threat against Iran must be credible4. WikiLeaks: Israel has destroyed Iran nuclear infrastructure5. Netanyahu: IAEA report proves Iran continuing nuke program
On the talkback forums, readers branched out though only slightly, with one article on Palestinian unity efforts attracting floods of comments, and another with Avigdor Liberman’s comments from a flooded-out tour of the Jordan Valley.
JPost Top Five most-active threads:1. Iran: Military strike will lead to collapse of Israel2. ‘IAEA report proves Iran continuing nuke program’3. Hamas rejects Abbas’s invitation to visit Jerusalem4. Russia: Israeli attack on Iran would be catastrophe5. 'Israeli security depends on keeping Jordan Valley'
In a Jerusalem Post quick vote taken last week ahead of the paper’s first annual conference in New York, readers were whistling the same tune. Asked about the biggest threat facing Israel, over half of the readers (55%) voted for the Iranian nuclear threat. The second most popular response was regional unrest after the Arab Spring, with 20% of the vote.
Staying in Israel, the English-speakers among us had a good giggle this week, with a YouTube clip along the “Sh*t” videos meme, a stream of online clips lightly poking fun at the stereotypically stupid and thoughtless things people say. The video, which had garnered over 60,000 views by Thursday afternoon, is a series of one-liners that almost all English-speaking immigrants are guilty of uttering at one point or another as they build their new lives in Israel.
And lastly, JPost joined Pintrest this week, after the emerging social photo sharing site broke records by going from zero to 10 million unique users faster than any other independent website, according to figures from comScore. The site, which touts itself as a virtual pinboard, has an interesting demographic - the majority of users (over 60% according to Techcrunch) are 18- to 34-year-old women in high income brackets.
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Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.
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