Some have chalked up the GOP presidential candidates’ complaints about the overwhelming liberal bias of the media to petty whining — even conservative darling Megyn Kelly took aim at the Republican campaigns’ debate demands. However, according to new research from Indiana University, the bias is real: a mere 7 percent of journalists identify as Republican:
And self-proclaimed Democratic journalists outnumber Republicans by 4-to-1, according to research by Lars Willnat and David Weaver, professors of journalism at Indiana University. They found 28 percent of journalists call themselves Democrats, while just 7 percent call themselves Republicans — though both numbers are down from the 1970s. Those identifying as independent have grown.
Among Washington correspondents, the ones who dominate national political coverage, it’s even more skewed, said Tim Groseclose, author of “Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind.” More than 90 percent of D.C. journalists vote Democratic, with an even higher number giving to Democrats or liberal-leaning political action committees, the author said.
“There’s something in the DNA of liberals that makes them want to go into jobs like the arts, journalism and academia more so than conservatives,” Mr. Groseclose said. “Even if you’re just trying to maximize profits by offering an alternative point of view, it’s hard to find conservative reporters. So it’s natural the media is more liberal.”
Perhaps this has something to do with the Ben Carson West Point fiasco that erupted Friday?
Even so, others argue that the media is an even playing field — and it’s our own perceptions that create the bias:
David D’Alessio, a communications sciences professor at the University of Connecticut at Stamford, said there is bias in the press, but his research shows it evens out.
“If you stop to think about media as larger than just reporters and owners they’re business entities and their job is to make money. If you look at where people’s opinions are, they are in the middle, so that’s where a lot of reporting goes because that’s where the eyeballs go,” he said.
Mr. D’Alessio argues that for every liberal news network like MSNBC, there’s a Fox News counterpoint because the market creates that opening. For The Huffington Post online, there’s the Drudge Report online, and for The New York Times there’s the New York Post.
But overall, he says, the mainstream media tend to be more neutral in their tone despite an individual reporter’s ideological preferences, because they want to appeal to both conservative and liberal viewers alike — because that’s where the greatest market is for making money. People only perceive the mainstream media as being biased because of their own biases.
“If a person is ideological, the more closely they’re going to zero in on things they disagree with,” Mr. D’Alessio said.
He conducted an experiment where he gave the same newspaper article to both Republicans and Democrats and told them to circle the bias. Republicans circled the liberal viewpoint in the story whereas the Democrats circled the conservative representation.
“But both sides were represented,” he said. “People need to take a step back and evaluate [that] just because I don’t agree with what someone says in the newspaper doesn’t mean the newspaper is lying about it.”
In another study, Groseclose found that on a 0-to-100 point scale, with 100 being the most liberal (such as a speech from Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) and 50 being centrist, the mainstream media tended to clock in at 60. In other words, not neutral, but not nearly as biased as the Republican presidential candidates have claimed.
The again, bias — however little — does matter:
People’s voting patterns are influenced by which kind of media they follow, according to a study done by Alan Gerber, a political science professor at Yale University. Mr. Gerber offered people in the Washington metropolitan area a free subscription to either The Washington Post or The Washington Times for several weeks ahead of a gubernatorial election. The Post, by his estimation and work done before, slanted as much to the left as The Times did to the right.
In a survey he conducted after the election, Mr. Gerber found those who were given a free subscription of The Post were 8 percentage points more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate for governor than those assigned to the control group.
The bias Republican lawmakers overcome is very much there. However, unless more Americans begin to consume more conservative media, it doesn’t seem like there’s much the candidates can do about it.