Steve's book - listening to political messages

the phrase is “I strained to listen to the constant political messages.”
I’m in doubt between two meanings:

  1. Steve was forced to listen to the messages.
  2. Steve was making a councious effort to pay attention to them.

I was trying, with great effort, to understand them. My Chinese was limited and I was curious to know what they were saying. In fact it was not only my limited Chinese but also my lack of knowledge of the background of these political messages. Eventually my Chinese and knowledge of the background improved.