Updated for 2012: The MRC's 'Media Bias 101'
The Media Research Center has just concluded an update of our “Media Bias 101”
Web package, with more than 40 articles detailing scholarly research of
the past 30 years showing the mostly liberal attitudes of American
journalists and 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.
We can expect media bias to be big news this year. Going into the 2012 campaign, a Pew Research Center poll found a record high
67% of Americans saw “a great deal” or “fair amount” of “political
bias” in the news media. At the end of the last campaign, Pew found the
— by a 70% to 9% margin — believed that most journalists wanted to see
Barack Obama, not John McCain, emerge victorious on Election Day.
Polls also show the public is troubled by the media’s favoritism: Scott Rasmussen in August 2008 found “55% believe media bias is more of a problem than big campaign contributions.”
The polls and studies found at our “Media Bias 101” page include 18 surveys of journalists themselves, documenting how a disproportionate share of reporters call themselves “liberal,” and how the Democrats would have won every election in the past 50 years if only the media were permitted to vote:
■ For their 1986 book, The Media Elite, political scientists S. Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman and Linda S. Lichter surveyed journalists at top media outlets. They found 94% reported voting for Lyndon Johnson in 1964; 86% for Hubert Humphrey in 1968; 81% for George McGovern in 1972 and 81% for Jimmy Carter in 1976. (More)
■ In 1982, scholars at California State University at Los Angeles asked reporters from the fifty largest newspapers for whom they voted in 1980. The breakdown: 51% cast a ballot for Jimmy Carter and another 24% chose the liberal independent candidate John Anderson. Only 25% picked conservative Ronald Reagan, who won 51% of the public’s vote that year. (More)
■ In 1985, the Los Angeles Times polled news and editorial staffers at newspapers around the country. When asked how they voted in the 1984 election, more than twice as many chose liberal Walter Mondale (58%) over the conservative incumbent Ronald Reagan (26%), even as the country picked Reagan in a 59 to 41% landslide. (More)
■ In 2001, Stanley Rothman and Amy E. Black updated the Media Elite’s survey of journalists, and found 76% of elite journalists voted for Michael Dukakis in 1988, while 91% voted for Bill Clinton. (More)
■ In 2005, the University of Connecticut surveyed 300 journalists nationwide, and found the media preferred Democratic challenger John Kerry over incumbent Republican President George W. Bush by a wide margin, 52% to 19%. (More)
■ Prior to the 2000, 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, the online Slate magazine surveyed its staff to find out how they intended to vote. As a case study, the Slate surveys match scientific polls of the media elite: More than three-fourths (76%) picked Al Gore as their top choice in 2000; 87% said they planned to vote for John Kerry in 2004; while virtually every staffer polled (96%) said they were supporting Barack Obama in 2008. (More)
Numerous polls also show far more journalists describe themselves as “liberal” compared to the general public. 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 May 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.
For more on all of these studies and polls, check out the MRC’s “Media Bias 101” section.
-- Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.