Examining the "Liberal Media" Claim

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From: Jim Whitehead (ejw@cse.ucsc.edu)
Date: Tue Jan 30 2001 - 14:42:03 PST


Executive Summary

The conservative critique of the news media rests on two general
propositions: (1) journalists' views are to the left of the public, and (2)
journalists frame news content in a way that accentuates these left
perspectives. Previous research has revealed persuasive evidence against the
latter claim, but the validity of the former claim has often been taken for
granted. This research project examined the supposed left orientation of
media personnel by surveying Washington-based journalists who cover national
politics and/or economic policy at US outlets.

The findings include:

* On select issues from corporate power and trade to Social Security and
Medicare to health care and taxes, journalists are actually more
conservative than the general public.

* Journalists are mostly centrist in their political orientation.

* The minority of journalists who do not identify with the "center" are more
likely to identify with the "right" when it comes to economic issues and to
identify with the "left" when it comes to social issues.

* Journalists report that "business-oriented news outlets" and "major daily
newspapers" provide the highest quality coverage of economic policy issues,
while "broadcast network TV news" and "cable news services" provide the

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