I have been extremely reluctant to write anything about Sarah Palin’s big book release in the past weeks, because I haven’t been able to muster up any ability to care. A new survey by the Pew Research Center by the People and the Press shows that I am joined by almost everyone in the country in that tendency.

The poll shows that people are closely following the debate over health care by a 20:1 margin over Palin and her book.

Fully 41% cite the health care debate as their most closely followed story of the week, far more than the percentage citing any other story. Nearly one-in-five (18%) name reports about swine flu as their top story, while somewhat fewer (11% each) cite the new mammogram guidelines and the debate over sending more U.S. forces to Afghanistan. Just 4% say that President Obama’s trip to Asia was their top story and even fewer – 2% of the public – cite news about Sarah Palin and her new book.

The health care debate also was the week’s top story in terms of news coverage, accounting for 13% of the newshole, according to a separate study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ). But while Palin’s book tour drew about as much coverage as the controversy over mammogram guidelines (8% vs. 7%), reports about the new guidelines attracted far more interest among the public.

Some of this is probably rooted in an embarrassment from people to acknowledge their interest in a former half-term Governor and her light-as-air book. And I don’t think the cable nets would pay so much attention if the ratings didn’t justify it. But the amount of coverage that the book release has received – with national news reporters actually following her around from signing to signing – is clearly out of step with the actual public interest.

I’m proud to be giving the people what they want at FDL News Desk.

Palin yesterday suggested that the private sector should take over Canada’s health care system, which provides superior health care outcomes to the United States at a lower cost.

David Dayen

David Dayen