Conservatives understand that the media is biased but the other side seems to be completely unaware, which I put down to the fact that the left does not know where the political middle is.
Survey after survey have shown that journalists overwhelmingly vote for left wing parties yet seem to believe that they are able to present a balanced, fair minded view of the issues. Unfortunately, reality does not support their position.
A new study finding the media give far more favorable coverage to Democrats than Republicans could have settled once and for all the debate over whether the news we get has a liberal bias.
After all, it was done by the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government — hardly a bastion of conservative orthodoxy.
But given the study's reception in the mainstream media, it's doubtful the issue has been put to rest. Like similar studies in the past, Harvard's went largely uncovered. A Nexis search found 20 news mentions of the report, with only a handful highlighting the revelation of extreme bias.
This, of course, backs the presumption of many news consumers that bias plays a key role in what media put out and hold back. In this case, a bias in favor of their own industry resulted in the burying of a study that places the industry in a bad light.
But one of the study's main findings — that political coverage is colored with a distinctly liberal bias — has been documented for years, if not decades. As such, the Harvard findings aren't nearly as surprising as the source.
Perhaps it's time, then, to stop debating whether the press is biased and move on to greater questions of how the bias is manifested and what effect it might be having on public discourse and opinion. In this series, IBD will examine these issues.
The Harvard study — conducted with the Project for Excellence in Journalism, part of the Pew Research Center for People and the Press — examined 1,742 presidential campaign stories appearing from January through May in 48 print, online, network TV, cable and radio news outlets.
Among many findings, it determined that Democrats got more coverage than Republicans (49% of the stories vs. 31%). It also found the "tone" of the coverage was more positive for Democrats (35% to 26% for Republicans).
"In other words," the authors say, "not only did the Republicans receive less coverage overall, the attention they did get tended to be more negative than that of Democrats. And in some specific media genres, the difference is particularly striking."
Those "genres" include the most mainstream of media — newspapers and TV. Fully 59% of front-page stories about Democrats in 11 newspapers had a "clear, positive message vs. 11% that carried a negative tone."
For "top-tier" candidates, the difference was even more apparent: Barack Obama's coverage was 70% positive and 9% negative, and Hillary Clinton's was 61% positive and 13% negative.
By contrast, 40% of the stories on Republican candidates were negative and 26% positive.
On TV, evening network newscasts gave 49% of their campaign coverage to the Democrats and 28% to Republicans. As for tone, 39.5% of the Democratic coverage was positive vs. 17.1%, while 18.6% of the Republican coverage was positive and 37.2% negative.
These findings are in line with a number of other studies that date back to the early 1970s:
• In 1972, "The News Twisters" by Edith Efron analyzed every prime-time network news show before the 1968 election and found coverage tilted 8 to 1 against Nixon on ABC, 10 to 1 on NBC and 16 to 1 on CBS.
• In 1984, Public Opinion magazine found that Reagan got 7,230 seconds of negative coverage and just 730 seconds of positive; Mondale's positive press totaled 1,330 seconds, vs. 1,050 negative.
• In 1986, "The Media Elite" surveyed 240 journalists at virtually every major media outlet and found that in presidential elections from 1964 to 1976, 86% of top journalists voted Democratic. A 2001 update found 76% voted for Dukakis in 1988 and 91% went for Clinton in 1992.
• A 1992 Freedom Forum poll showed 89% of Washington reporters and bureau chiefs voting for Clinton in '92 and only 7% for George H.W. Bush.
• A 2003 Pew survey found 34% of national journalists called themselves liberal and 7% conservative. By 7 to 1, they also felt they weren't critical enough of President Bush.
• In 2005, a study of bias by professors at UCLA, Stanford and the University of Chicago determined that only one media outlet — Fox News Special Report — could be tagged "right of center."