Just Updated: MRC's Collection of Studies Showing Journalists' Liberal Views
As 2014 begins, the MRC has just updated of our “Media Bias 101” resource page, which now links to nearly 50 articles summarizing decades of scholarly research showing the mostly liberal attitudes of American journalists, plus opinion polls showing the public’s growing recognition of the media’s liberal bias. The package also includes dozens of quotes from reporters denying this bias, plus a few notable instances of media figures admitting their tilt.
If you've ever found yourself looking for research on this topic, this is a good page to bookmark; our goal is to update the page with fresh material when it becomes available. Most of the pages include full-color charts illustrating key points; there's also a fully-formatted, 48-page PDF version containing much (but not all) of the data included in this section.
Key stats and links to major studies after the jump
One of the new pages added this year summarizes research uncovered by Northeastern University professor William G. Mayer for a 2009 academic paper, “The Political Attitudes of American Journalists: A Survey of Surveys.” The first study that attempted to gauge journalists' political views was conducted in 1962, and found self-identified liberals outnumbered conservatives by a 2-to-1 margin.
Other key studies documenting that journalists have, for decades, proven to be far more liberal than the public they purport to serve:
■ In the late 1970s, political scientists S. Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman and Linda S. Lichter found 54% of top journalists "placed themselves to the left of center, compared to only 19% who chose the right side of the spectrum.' They also discovered that between 81% and 94% reported voting for the Democratic candidate in presidential elections from 1964-1976.■ In 1985, the Los Angeles Times polled news and editorial staffers at newspapers around the country, and found self-identified liberals outnumbered conservatives in the newsroom by more than three-to-one, 55 to 17 percent. This compares to only one-fourth of the public (23 percent) that identified themselves as liberal at that time.■ In 1996, the American Society of Newspaper Editors surveyed 1,037 journalists at 61 newspapers, and found those calling themselves “liberal/Democrat” outnumbered “conservative/Republican” by a four-to-one margin (61% to 15%).■ In 2001, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found four times as many 'media professionals' said they considered themselves 'liberal' (25%) than called themselves 'conservative' (6%). And, more than six times as many media professionals called themselves Democrats (27%), than said they were Republicans (just 4%).
■ In 2004, the Pew Research Center found that the proportion of liberals in the national media had actually grown over the previous nine years, from 22% in 1995 to 34% in 2004. Meanwhile, the percentage of conservatives remained minuscule: just 4% in 1995, 7% in 2004.
As for what the public thinks of the media:
■ A 1996 poll of 3,000 Americans conducted by the Center for Media and Public Affairs found "those who see a liberal tilt outnumber those who detect a conservative bias by more than a two to one margin....Even self-described liberals agree: 41 percent see the media as liberal, compared to only 22 percent who find the news to be conservative."■ In Gallup polls conducted nearly every year from 2001 through 2013, the percentage saying the media are too liberal has ranged from 44 percent to 48 percent; the percentage seeing the media as too conservative never exceeded 19 percent.■ No fewer than five different polls conducted during the 2008 presidential campaign found the public strongly believed the news media were biased in favor of Democrat Barack Obama. A Pew Research Center poll released in late October of that year found "by a margin of 70% - 9%, Americans say most journalists want to see Obama, not John McCain, win on Nov. 4."■ A Rasmussen poll of 1,000 likely voters conducted in February 2013 found two in five voters (41%) “think the average media reporter is more liberal than they are,” compared with just 18 percent “who feel the average reporters is more conservative than they are.”
And, a few of the more-recent quotes of journalists defying the evidence and denying their bias:
■ “I can see how the intensity of coverage on certain issues may, to some people, seem to reflect a liberal point of view. But I actually don’t think it does.”— New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson talking about her newspaper’s political slant in an interview with the New Republic’s Michael Kinsley, August 20, 2013.■ “It’s silly that there’s a liberal bias in media. Obviously, there are liberal voices and there are conservative voices. But overwhelmingly, media in the United States — television, newspapers, and that sort of thing — the bias shifts towards the right. It’s a center-right media in this country.”— Former NBC News reporter and New York Times columnist Bob Herbert on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, April 27, 2013.■ “My work has been so cleansed, as I see it, and as I’ve tried, of political opinions over 27 years.... No one gives a rat’s patootie about my opinion, so it’s nice that I don’t have to share it.”— NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams on Alec Baldwin’s Here’s the Thing New York City radio show, March 4, 2013.■ “Most of us, do not — you don’t know whether we’re Republicans or Democrats or exhibitionists.”— Co-host Barbara Walters on ABC’s The View, April 9, 2012.■ “There may be liberals on TV at MSNBC, but the network is not operating with a political objective.”— MSNBC 9pm ET host Rachel Maddow in a December 21, 2011 interview posted at Slate.com.
For much, much more, check out the MRC’s “Media Bias 101” section.