U.S. Politics

Seen, Read, Heard 2023: Analyzing the Most Salient News Events

December 2023

Report summary

Morning Consult’s Seen, Read, Heard project measures real-time media consumption throughout the year. 2023’s analysis is based on the contemporaneous measurement of more than 600 news events among nearly 100,000 registered U.S. voters.

This project analyzes the share of voters who said they had seen, read or heard “a lot” about each event at the time it occurred.

Key Takeaways

  • 2023 was the year of vessels. The two most penetrative stories of 2023 both involved moving objects. Nearly 3 in 5 U.S. voters (59%) reported hearing “a lot” about the Chinese spy balloon in the days after it was spotted drifting across the continental United States in early February. The same share of voters reported hearing a lot about OceanGate’s Titan submersible that went missing in June and was ultimately found to have imploded.
  • Incidents in the Middle East made waves. Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israeli citizens and the devastating earthquake that ripped through Turkey and Syria also cracked our list of the top 10 most salient news events in the United States. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Queen Elizabeth’s death in 2022, this is the second year in a row that incidents on foreign soil have ranked among the most penetrative news stories in America.
  • Trump returns to the limelight. Following an absence from our list of 2022’s major news items, former President Donald Trump was back in the top 10 thanks to his ongoing legal troubles. Roughly half of voters (49%) saw, read or heard a lot about Trump’s mugshot in Georgia during his processing on racketeering charges, and 47% said the same of his indictment by the Justice Department special counsel on other charges related to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election result.
  • Partisan news gaps remain. For the sixth successive year, our surveys showed that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to report hearing a lot about most of the news events we tested.

About the authors

A headshot photograph of Cameron Easley
Cameron Easley
Lead U.S. Politics Analyst

Cameron Easley is Morning Consult’s lead analyst for U.S. politics. Prior to moving into his current role, he led Morning Consult's editorial coverage of U.S. politics and elections from 2016 through 2022. Cameron joined Morning Consult from Roll Call, where he was managing editor. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Follow him on Twitter @cameron_easley. Interested in connecting with Cameron to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].

A headshot photograph of Eli Yokley
Eli Yokley
U.S. Politics Analyst

Eli Yokley is Morning Consult’s U.S. politics analyst. Eli joined Morning Consult in 2016 from Roll Call, where he reported on House and Senate campaigns after five years of covering state-level politics in the Show Me State while studying at the University of Missouri in Columbia, including contributions to The New York Times, Politico and The Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter @eyokley. Interested in connecting with Eli to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].