Research on Media Bias

Research on Media Bias


The leftwing bias of the American mass media is pervasive and quantifiable. Since the 1980s, studies have consistently shown that the professionals who constitute America’s mainstream news media – reporters, editors, anchors, publishers, correspondents, bureau chiefs, and executives at the nation’s major newspapers, magazines, and broadcast networks – are preponderantly left-oriented and Democrat. These studies have excluded commentators, editorialists, and opinion columnists – all of whom make it clear that they are giving their opinions and analyses of the news as they view it. Rather, the focus of the research has been on those individuals whose ostensible duty is to impartially and comprehensively present the relevant facts to the readers, listeners, and viewers.

A useful way of gauging the news media’s political and ideological makeup is to examine what the professionals in that industry believe about a wide array of social, ethical, and political issues. For example, research shows that:

  • Fully 81% of news media professionals favor affirmative action in employment and academia.
  • Some 71% agree that the “government should work to ensure that everyone has a job.”
  • 75% agree that the “government should work to reduce the income gap between rich and poor.”
  • 56% say that the United States has exploited the nations of the Third World.
  • 57% say that America’s disproportionate consumption of the world’s natural resources is “immoral.”
  • Nearly half agree that “the very structure of our society causes people to feel alienated.”
  • Only 30% agree that “private enterprise is fair to workers.”

It is equally illuminating to examine the degree to which members of the news media have supported Democrat or liberal/left candidates and causes, both at the ballot box and with their checkbooks:

  • In 1964, 94% of media professionals voted for Democrat Lyndon Johnson over Republican Barry Goldwater.
  • In 1968, 86% voted for Democrat Hubert Humphrey over Republican Richard Nixon.
  • In 1972, 81% voted for Democrat George McGovern over the incumbent Nixon.
  • In 1976, 81% voted for Democrat Jimmy Carter over Republican Gerald Ford.
  • In 1980, twice as many cast their ballots for Carter rather than for Republican Ronald Reagan.
  • In 1984, 58% supported Democrat Walter Mondale, whom Reagan defeated in the biggest landslide in presidential election history.
  • In 1988, White House correspondents from various major newspapers, television networks, magazines, and news services supported Democrat Michael Dukakis over Republican George H.W. Bush by a ratio of 12-to-1.
  • In 1992, those same correspondents supported Democrat Bill Clinton over the incumbent Bush by a ratio of 9 to 2.
  • Among Washington bureau chiefs and congressional correspondents, the disparity was 89% vs. 7%, in Clinton’s favor.
  • In a 2004 poll of campaign journalists, those based outside of Washington, DC supported Democrat John Kerry over Republican George W. Bush by a ratio of 3-to-1. Those based inside the Beltway favored Kerry by a 12-to-1 ratio.
  • In a 2008 survey of 144 journalists nationwide, journalists were 8 times likelier to make campaign contributions to Democrats than to Republicans.
  • A 2008 Investors Business Daily study put the campaign donation ratio at 11.5-to-1, in favor of Democrats. In terms of total dollars given, the ratio was 15-to-1.

It is exceedingly rare to find, even in the most heavily partisan voting districts in the United States, such pronounced imbalances in terms of votes cast or dollars earmarked for one party or the other.

The figures cited above are entirely consistent with how news-media professionals identify themselves in terms of their political party affiliations and ideological leanings:

  • In a 1988 survey of business reporters, 54% of respondents identified themselves as Democrats, 9% as Republicans.
  • In a 1992 poll of journalists working for newspapers, magazines, radio, and television, 44% called themselves Democrats, 16% Republicans.
  • In a 1996 poll of 1,037 reporters at 61 newspapers, 61% identified themselves as Democrats, 15% as Republicans.
  • In a 2001 Kaiser Family Foundation poll, media professionals were nearly 7 times likelier to call themselves Democrats rather than Republicans.
  • A 2014 study by Indiana University’s School of Journalism found that just 7.1% of all journalists identified themselves as Republicans, vs, 28.1% who self-identified as Democrats and 50.2% who said they were Independents.

We see similar ratios in studies where news people are asked to rate themselves on the left-to-right political spectrum:

  • In a 1981 study of 240 journalists nationwide, 65% identified themselves as liberals, 17% as conservatives.
  • In a 1983 study of news reporters, executives, and staffers, 32% identified themselves as liberals, 11% as conservatives.
  • In a 1992 study of more than 1,400 journalists, 44% identified themselves as liberals, 22% as conservatives.
  • In a 1996 study of Washington bureau chiefs and congressional correspondents, 61% identified themselves as liberals, 9% as conservatives.
  • In a 1996 study of 1,037 journalists, the respondents identified themselves as liberals 4 times more frequently than as conservatives. Among journalists working for newspapers with circulations exceeding 50,000, the ratio of liberals to conservatives was 5.4 to 1.
  • In a 2004 Pew Research Center study of journalists and media executives, the ratio of self-identified liberals to conservatives was 4.9 to 1.
  • In a 2007 Pew Research Center study of journalists and news executives, the ratio was 4 liberals for each conservative.

Bias in the news media manifests itself most powerfully not in the form of outright, intentional lies, but is most often a function of what reporters choose not to tell their audience; i.e., the facts they purposely omit so as to avoid contradicting the political narrative they wish to advance. As media researchers Tim Groseclose and Jeffrey Milyo put it: “[F]or every sin of commission…we believe that there are hundreds, and maybe thousands, of sins of omission – cases where a journalist chose facts or stories that only one side of the political spectrum is likely to mention.”

By no means is such activity the result of an organized campaign or conspiracy. Media expert Bernard Goldberg says: “No, we don’t sit around in dark corners and plan strategies on how we’re going to slant the news. We don’t have to. It comes naturally to most reporters.” Goldberg explains that “a lot of newspeople … got into journalism in the first place” so they could: (a) “change the world and make it a better place,” and (b) use their positions as platforms from which to “sho[w] compassion,” which “makes us feel good about ourselves.” Expanding further upon this point, Goldberg quotes researcher Robert Lichter of the nonpartisan Center for Media and Public Affairs, who said that journalists increasingly “see themselves as society’s designated saviors,” striving to “awaken the national conscience and force public action.” Or as ABC News anchor Peter Jennings admitted to the Boston Globe in July 2001: “Those of us who went into journalism in the ’50s or ’60s, it was sort of a liberal thing to do: Save the world.”

In March 2021, D.C. Circuit Court Judge Laurence Silberman noted the media’s extreme bias against Republicans, and stated that the Democratic Party was close to having a monopolistic control of the press. Some excerpts from his remarks:

  • “The increased power of the press is so dangerous today because we are very close to one-party control of these institutions. Our court was once concerned about the institutional consolidation of the press leading to a ‘bland and homogenous’ marketplace of ideas. It turns out that ideological consolidation of the press (helped along by economic consolidation) is the far greater threat.”
  • “Although the bias against the Republican Party—not just controversial individuals—is rather shocking today, this is not new; it is a long-term, secular trend going back at least to the ’70s…. Two of the three most influential papers (at least historically), The New York Times and The Washington Post, are virtually Democratic Party broadsheets. And the news section of The Wall Street Journal leans in the same direction. The orientation of these three papers is followed by The Associated Press and most large papers across the country (such as the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, and Boston Globe). Nearly all television—network and cable—is a Democratic Party trumpet. Even the government-supported National Public Radio follows along.”
  • “It should be borne in mind that the first step taken by any potential authoritarian or dictatorial regime is to gain control of communications, particularly the delivery of news. It is fair to conclude, therefore, that one-party control of the press and media is a threat to a viable democracy. It may even give rise to countervailing extremism.”
  • “The First Amendment guarantees a free press to foster a vibrant trade in ideas. But a biased press can distort the marketplace. And when the media has proven its willingness—if not eagerness—to so distort, it is a profound mistake to stand by unjustified legal rules that serve only to enhance the press’ power.”

Silberman also noted the very few notable exceptions to the otherwise blanket leftism of the press: Fox News, the New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. “It should be sobering for those concerned about news bias that these institutions are controlled by a single man and his son,” he wrote. “Will a lone holdout remain in what is otherwise a frighteningly orthodox media culture? After all, there are serious efforts to muzzle Fox News. And although upstart (mainly online) conservative networks have emerged in recent years, their visibility has been decidedly curtailed by Social Media, either by direct bans or content-based censorship.”

Additional Resources:

Media Bias Basics
By The Media Research Center

Media Bias 101 (PDF format) (What Journalists Really Think, What the Public Thinks About the Media, & What Journalists Say About Media Bias)
By The Media Research Center
May 2014

A Measure of Media Bias
By Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo
November 2005

The Source and Nature of the Media’s Biases: The Lichter-Rothman Study on Media Attitudes
By the American Life League

These Three Charts Confirm Conservatives’ Worst Fears About American Culture
By Andy Kiersz and Hunter Walker
November 3, 2014

The Media Assault on American Values
By The Culture and Media Institute
June 6, 2007

Four Times More Journalists Identify as Liberal Than Conservative
By Media Research Center
March 19, 2008

In the Tank: A Statistical Analysis of Media Bias
By John Perazzo
October 31, 2008

Republicans’ Media Bias Claims Boosted by Scarcity of Right-Leaning Journalists
By Kelly Riddell
November 8, 2015

Media Biased against Conservative Think Tanks
By Danny Huizinga
January 8, 2014


Media Bias 101 (PDF format) (What Journalists Really Think, What the Public Thinks About the Media, & What Journalists Say About Media Bias)
By The Media Research Center
May 2014

Admissions of Liberal Bias
By The Media Research Center

Denials of Liberal Bias
By The Media Research Center


How the Media Vote
By The Media Research Center

Journalists’ Political Views
By The Media Research Center

Journalists Shower Hillary Clinton with Campaign Cash
By Dave Levinthal and Michael Beckel
October 17, 2016

Big Media Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is
By William Tate
July 22, 2008

Obama, Democrats Got 88 Percent of 2008 Contributions by TV Network Execs, Writers, Reporters
By Mark Tapscott
August 28, 2010

125 Reporters Gave Money to Dems/Liberal Causes vs. 17 Reporters Who Gave to GOP Proves News Media’s Leftist Slant
By Media Research Center
June 21, 2007

DC Journalists Favor Kerry 12 to 1
By WorldNetDaily
August 3, 2004


How the Public Views the Media
By The Media Research Center

Rasmussen Reports: Voters See Media as Liberal, Biased, Too Powerful
By Rich Noyes
January 15, 2010

Gallup Poll: Media Seen as ‘Too Liberal,’ Untrustworthy
By Rich Noyes
October 5, 2009

Poll: Big Majorities Say Objective Journalism Is Dead and that Media Back Obama
By Fred Lucas
September 25, 2009

New Evidence of Liberal Media Bias
By Andrew G. Selepak
November 6, 2006


Who Cares if Joe Biden Sexually Assaulted Tara Reade?
By John Perazzo
May 5, 2020


Documenting TV’s Twelve Weeks of Trump Bashing
October 25, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s Media Fan Club
June 29, 2016

Journalists Cast Hillary as a Feminist Champion, Battling Sexist America
July 1, 2016

WikiLeaks Reveals Long List of Media Canoodling with Hillary Clinton
By Lee Stranahan
October 14, 2016


News Coverage of Donald Trump’s First 100 Days
By Thomas E. Patterson
May 18, 2017

Even As Media Whine About Trump, Their Hostile Coverage Shows No Let Up
By Rich Noyes
December 12, 2017

Pew Study: Media Bias against Trump Is Real – and Extreme
By Rusty Weiss
October 9, 2017

Numbers Don’t Lie: Media Bias against Trump Is Entrenched, Vicious, Persistent
By Jennifer Harper
June 29, 2017

2017: The Year the News Media Went to War Against a President
By Rich Noyes and Mike Ciandella
January 16, 2018

Pew: Trump Media Three Times More Negative Than for Obama, Just 5 Percent Positive
By Paul Bedard
December 27, 


Rise and Shine on Democrats: How the ABC, CBS and NBC Morning Shows Are Promoting Democrats on the Road to the White House
By The Media Research Center
August 2007

Omitting for Obama: How the Old Media Deliberately Censored New Media Scoops in 2009
By The Media Research Center

Obama’s Margin of Victory: The Media
By The Media Research Center

Obama’s Media Landslide
By Brent Bozell
October 28, 2008

Major Media Decide — Vote Obama
By Larry Elder
August 28, 2008

Obama’s Edge in the Coverage Race
By Deborah Howell
August 17, 2008

Editing Reverend Wright’s Wrongs: How the Networks Censored and Manipulated Jeremiah Wright Soundbites and Glorified Barack Obama’s Race Speech
By The Media Research Center

Media Elite’s Campaign News More Biased than Talk Radio
By Media Research Center
October 31, 2007


Federal Judge Claims Democrats Are Close to Controlling All Major News Outlets
By Zachary Stieber
March 20, 2021


Unfreedom of the Press
By Mark Levin

Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind
By Tim Groseclose

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