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AMERICANS LOSING INTEREST IN EAST BLOC NEWS, POLL SAYS

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In the past four weeks, interest by Americans in the dramatic events of Eastern Europe has dropped drastically, while only one in five people closely followed the Malta summit, a poll shows.

The survey from the Times-Mirror Co. indicated that only one topic - abortion - had grabbed the attention of more than one-third of the public in the past month.The poll, part of a monthly series of studies on how closely Americans are following major news events, showed that in the last four weeks, 28 percent of those surveyed said they were "very closely" following the political changes in Eastern and Central Europe.

The results appeared to indicate that American interest in the European story was geared to a dramatic event.

In the previous four-week period, 50 percent of those surveyed said they were closely following the opening of the Berlin Wall, but 29 percent said they were paying close attention to the generic European story.

The survey added that people who are not watching the European events closely said the reason was the complexity of the story and the fact that it was difficult to follow.

However, the survey indicated that despite the results, there was evidence "that the public grasps the significance of the changes that are taking place in East bloc countries."

The December survey also showed only 20 percent said they closely followed the Malta summit between President Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, while 19 percent said they were watching the coup attempt in the Philippines and 14 percent followed new fighting in El Salvador.

However, 35 percent of those surveyed said they were closely following attempts to change abortion laws since the Supreme Court gave states more power to do that.