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Study Finds Liberal Media Bias Is Real

A three year study of the past 10 years of major media news stories, by led by UCLA political scientist Tim Groseclose, finds that media bias is real and that the term "liberal media" is a good description for the top 20 media outlets.

Of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS' "Evening News," The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind the news pages of The Wall Street Journal. Don't do a double take, you read that right. The news pages of The Wall Street Journal led the list of left leaning coverage. Editorial and Opinion pieces were not included in the study - only news stories.

From the UC News Wire press release:

"I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican," said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. "But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are."

"Overall, the major media outlets are quite moderate compared to members of Congress, but even so, there is a quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left," said co author Jeffrey Milyo, University of Missouri economist and public policy scholar.

The results appear in the latest issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which will become available in mid-December.

So how did they measure bias?
Groseclose and Milyo based their research on a standard gauge of a lawmaker's support for liberal causes. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) tracks the percentage of times that each lawmaker votes on the liberal side of an issue. Based on these votes, the ADA assigns a numerical score to each lawmaker, where "100" is the most liberal and "0" is the most conservative. After adjustments to compensate for disproportionate representation that the Senate gives to low population states and the lack of representation for the District of Columbia, the average ADA score in Congress (50.1) was assumed to represent the political position of the average U.S. voter.

Groseclose and Milyo then directed 21 research assistants - most of them college students - to scour U.S. media coverage of the past 10 years. They tallied the number of times each media outlet referred to think tanks and policy groups, such as the left-leaning NAACP or the right-leaning Heritage Foundation.

Next, they did the same exercise with speeches of U.S. lawmakers. If a media outlet displayed a citation pattern similar to that of a lawmaker, then Groseclose and Milyo's method assigned both a similar ADA score.

"A media person would have never done this study," said Groseclose, a UCLA political science professor, whose research and teaching focuses on the U.S. Congress. "It takes a Congress scholar even to think of using ADA scores as a measure. And I don't think many media scholars would have considered comparing news stories to congressional speeches."

Read the rest of the surprising results.

Update: The full report is available [PDF]. Thanks to jc for pointing it out.


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Comments (18)

Kev, wrong link on bottom?<... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Kev, wrong link on bottom?

Kevin:I was going to... (Below threshold)

Kevin:
I was going to ask if the study covered a bit more than just the past 10 years, then I realized that Lewinsky was only about seven years ago.

Dammit. I must be getting old. Or something.

--|PW|--

Well Kevin, as you guys wou... (Below threshold)
ClobberGirl:

Well Kevin, as you guys would say... I guess the worst-kept secret in the world is out! :)

How long before the media f... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

How long before the media finds a study that says they are not biased? 1 or 2 weeks, or will they just pretend this study doesn't exist.

Interesting graphs in the p... (Below threshold)
jc:

Interesting graphs in the paper:

http://www.polisci.ucla.edu/faculty/groseclose/Media.Bias.pdf

Page 62 pretty much sums it up. Page 61 is scary. Congress is getting more and more liberal, according to the graph on page 61. Well, maybe not. The graph goes back to the 30's before civil rights and such so maybe the upward trend is a good thing on that time scale. And it did get more conservative in '92 which makes sense.

The methodology and the results seem pretty good to me. I haven't read the paper so I don't know if they account for the possibility (in fact I've heard this somewhere) that there are more liberal think tanks in terms of numbers whereas conservatives have a few big ones. Even so, the media should not be throwing a dart at the yellow pages "Think Tanks through Thong Underwear" page, so citing more liberal think tanks wouldn't make sense unless they had a liberal agenda.

If you think American media... (Below threshold)

If you think American media is biased, well then, welcome to Israel. As vice-chairman of Israel's Media Watch we have been monitoring and researching this issue for over a decade. See this summary of one of our publications:
http://www.acpr.org.il/publications/policy-papers/pp050-xs.html.

When we approached the director of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, akin to NPR or the BBC, we were told that only liberal-thinking reporters possessed the character trait of curiosity that made them better reporters.

I used to work for the Wall... (Below threshold)

I used to work for the Wall Street Journal and, after being forced to read every word in there for a year, I'm not at all surprised that it's been judged to contain a left bias. If the UCLA had included the op-eds into the equation it would have skewed even further left.

Still, not a bad paper, as these things go.

I didn't need a study to te... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

I didn't need a study to tell me this, but obviously the people on the other side do, since they are in denial, and will likely remain so.

I understand that the Grudg... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

I understand that the Grudge Report was considered centrist, by the study..Either the MSM has 'a liberal bias' or the average ADA score, 50.1, represents in part,'the conservative bias' of Congress, rather than as the authors suggest, the average political position of the voters.

jpm100: I vote for 'they'll... (Below threshold)

jpm100: I vote for 'they'll ignore it'...heck they're still pretending they didn't count the votes in 2000 several times until forced to conclude they didn't add up the way they wanted...so the 'hey WE counted all the votes' story quickly disappeared. MSM's MO is to simply ignore what they don't want to report on, they don't bother to present 'the other side' they just pretend their side is the only side and if it's not on their side it doesn't exist...(does that make sense?) Simple example, Bush gives a major policy speech but the coverage is all about Ted "you can swim, right?" Kennedy's response. They're just so predictable. By the way, anybody else think 'Groseclose' is a funny name? (well, someone had to say it)

Sorry, but when a study cla... (Below threshold)
jp2:

Sorry, but when a study claims Drudge is left of center, I have to laugh.

Bush gives a major policy ... (Below threshold)
seaqmus:

Bush gives a major policy speech

That just proves your ignorance, boy. Bush has never given a major policy speech. He announces he's giving them all the time, but they're always a rehashing of whatever drivel he was spewing the week before.

What is "conservative"? Wha... (Below threshold)
cat:

What is "conservative"? What is "liberal"? What is right wing and what is left? Most people think they know exactly what these things are, but are you sure? If you shift the "center" far enough in one direction, it's not hard to prove that one group of people are "leftists" or "rightists," "liberals" or "conservatives."

What's interesting about this study is the assumption it makes that members of Congress represent the political spectrum - that they represent the public. Since when was that ever the case? In Britain, most people and media support the death penalty. Parliament doesn't. So is parliament liberal? Are the public and media conservative? And does the British parliament "represent" the people?

Before the invasion of Iraq, most Americans supported that action - as long as it was done with UN approval. Congress gave Bush the power to do it without UN approval. So did Congress "represent" the people? Who were the liberals here? Who were the conservatives? Where did the US media stand in that?

And if simply quoting someone means you support them, then Michelle Malkin is one of the biggest liberals of all. There is just one thing that Malkin and I agree on - no matter how many times she quotes liberals, she's not doing it to support them and she isn't one of them.

File under: Dog Bites Man.<... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

File under: Dog Bites Man.

Well, duh!</p... (Below threshold)
Bill M:

Well, duh!

Just to keep things in pers... (Below threshold)

Just to keep things in perspective, the lead professor has been taking grants exclusivley from right-wing organizations for years, and even proudly admits his participation with many right-wing groups on his website. The co-author was also a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and they wrote their first article together for the right-wing American Spectator.

Not to mention, the methodology is just plain screwy. First the way they assign the ADA rating to the policy group, by averaging the ADA score of the Congresspeople who MENTION them, is so completely flawed… and in the actual study, they admit that the ACLU actually had a “conservative” rating because of being mentioned by a conservative Congressman so many times. But they removed his citations, and adjusted the score to be more liberal. Then they use those flawed numbers and average the number of times they’re mentioned in the press. It boggles the mind that anyone would take this seriously.

However, I wonder if any right-wingers, who actually think this is valid, will notice that PBS and NPR were scored right down the center?

Thank you anonymous liberal... (Below threshold)
Michael:

Thank you anonymous liberal! I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed the circular argument of the whole methodology.

But one thing I especially love about the study (if you take its methodology as true) is that the average ADA rating of the media is 62.8.

Looking at votesmart.org, you know where a 62.8 puts the media were it an actual Senator? Right in the middle of Olympia Snowe and Lincoln Chaffee, two moderate Republicans!

Which makes sense because other studies have shown the media as socially liberal and economically conservative - just like Olympia Snowe and Lincoln Chaffee.

So maybe the other posters here are right, maybe it isn't new news. :)

It's so hard to believe tha... (Below threshold)
entertainmeclowns:

It's so hard to believe that people don't get it. When any profession is overly-saturated with leftists, then the result of any productive effort will be leftist. And those responding that the system is flawed made the same complaint during the ridiculous vote counting schemes directed at the last two presidential elections. Some will hold to their political beliefs, regardless of the facts and any new information presented, to their death. They somehow confuse 'liberalism' with being 'correct' and the truth be damned. Those railing against this article are neither intelligent or savy- they are loyal to their party, which was probably their hippy ancestors party.




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