In the AP-Times Square poll, the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela occurred as the poll was underway. It rose quickly, with 8 percent naming it as the most important news of the year, matching the share citing the federal government's budget difficulties or shutdown.
A separate question asked respondents to rate the importance of several news stories for them personally. The budget fight, which led to a partial shutdown of the federal government in October, was rated extremely or very important by 60 percent of Americans, and prompted rare bipartisan agreement. About two-thirds in each major party — 65 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of Democrats — rated it highly important.
A majority said the Boston Marathon bombings were extremely or very important, and 47 percent considered the national debate over gun laws that important.
POP CULTURE: MOSTLY FORGETTABLE MOMENTS
Miley Cyrus's MTV Video Music Awards performance. The launch of "Lean In." Apologies from Paula Deen and Lance Armstrong. Walter White's exit and the entrance of the Netflix series "House of Cards." What do they all have in common? More Americans say these pop culture moments were more forgettable than memorable.
Just one pop culture moment was deemed more memorable than forgettable: The birth of Prince George to Britain's Prince William and his wife, Kate.
—Among men, 64 percent called the debate on work-life balance sparked by the book "Lean In" and other writings forgettable. About half of women agreed.
—About 1 in 5 younger Americans said the launch of original programming through streaming services like Netflix or Hulu was a memorable moment, about doubling the share among those age 50 and up.
—Residents of the West were more likely than others to consider memorable the San Francisco "Batkid" (31 percent) or the final season of the series "Breaking Bad" (19 percent).