Shocker: Media Bias Real

Media Bias Is Real, Finds UCLA Political Scientist

While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper’s news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times. The Drudge Report may have a right-wing reputation, but it leans left. Coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left.

These are just a few of the surprising findings from a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly.

“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.

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.


Only Fox News’ “Special Report With Brit Hume” and The Washington Times scored right of the average U.S. voter.

The most centrist outlet proved to be the “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.”

Obviously there is no universally accepted measurement of what the “center” is in American politics, but on its surface this ADA-based study seems as legitimate and fair as any of the other methodologies I’ve seen.

However, polling data suggest that 60 percent of the American public hold “conservative” beliefs — that there is only one TV program and one paper right of center suggests either a failure of the media market, or perhaps it is indicative of a flaw in what this study measures.

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Leopold Stotch
About Leopold Stotch
“Dr. Leopold Stotch” was the pseudonym of political science professor then at a major research university inside the beltway. He has a PhD in International Relations. He contributed 165 pieces to OTB between November 2004 and February 2006.


  1. bryan says:

    Obviously there is no universally accepted measurement of what the “center” is in American politics, but on its surface this ADA-based study seems as legitimate and fair as any of the other methodologies I’ve seen.

    Which isn’t saying much, James.

  2. Notta Libb says:

    Check out a funny site dedicated to the absurdity and satire nature of saying “It’s All George Bush’s Fault!”

    Notta Libb

  3. Lee Scoresby says:

    “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.”

    This is seriously problematic. Does O’Reilly, for example, spend more time quoting Heritage Foundation “findings” or bashing the NAACP? How would he be coded given this study? Then there’s the problem of groups like Brookings which “lean left” by virtue of not being propaganda mills (like Heritage or, at least in the last few years, AEI). Regardless, this is a pretty bad measure of bias because it doesn’t contextualize how groups were referred to and what the overall spin of the story is. It will be easier to tell when the report is available… but this is “objective” in the sense of “doesn’t involve subjective coding” but not “objective” in the sense of “good.”

  4. Steve Verdon says:
  5. Steve Verdon says:


    Unless I’m mistaken (I can’t get to the pdf of the paper anymore) O’Rielly wouldn’t be in their sampling since it works off of print media and news stories, not pundits.

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    One can find the article here. And I was wrong, they do look at televised news programs, but from what I gather, somebody like O’Reilly and his show wouldn’t be counted. They looked at news shows like CBS Evening News.