Rasmussen has conducted a series of polls on consumer attitudes on the media, and the results show a widespread conclusion that the American media has a liberal bias. Not only do the major networks have a bias, according to the American news consumer, but so do most of the major newspapers and cable-news outlets:
In the final poll of a series measuring perceptions of media bias, the Associated Press, local television stations, MSNBC, and CNBC are all perceived as tilting to the left when reporting the news.
Earlier releases showed that Americans tend to believe the major broadcast networks, CNN, and NPR have a liberal bias. Fox News is seen as having a bias in the other direction. In print, the New York Times, Washington Post, and local newspapers were also seen as having a liberal bias. ...
The current survey finds that 30% of American adults believe the Associated Press has a liberal bias and only 12% believe it leans the other way. Local television news is viewed as having a liberal bias by 30% and a conservative bias by 17%. MSNBC is seen as being a bit more to the left—33% say it has a liberal bias and 13% say the opposite. For CNBC, 29% say it has a liberal bias and 14% say a conservative bias.
In order to properly deconstruct this, we have to look at the surveys and find what the actual numbers show. In the case of the broadcast networks, the reporting looks fairly straightforward. Thirty-nine percent of respondents believe the major networks (CBS, ABC, NBC) to have a liberal bias, while only 25% believe they report without any bias. CNN comes closer to a tie on this point; 33% believe they have a liberal slant, while 32% believe they have no slant. NPR is one of only two national broadcast outlets where objectivity wins, 37%-27% against liberal bias.
None of them have more than 20% responding that they show a conservative bias, except for Fox News. Interestingly, despite frothing attacks from the Left, Fox is the other major broadcast outlet seem by a plurality as objective. Thirty-six percent say Fox has no bias, compared to 31% who perceive a conservative bias.
Next, Rasmussen looks at the print media. The ubiquitous wire service, the AP, gets 30% of respondents saying it has a liberal bias, but 37% say that AP remains objective. The rest fare more poorly. Local papers skew to liberals, according to 35% of the respondents, but the New York Times gets 40% claiming bias, while only half of that number believes the Gray Lady to be objective. The Washington Post has a better split, 30%-21%, but it still has the overall taint of liberal bias, according to news consumers. The Wall Street Journal gets 29% for objectivity, the plurality for those who give a substantive answer.
The crosstabs are intriguing. Almost without exception, men perceive liberal biases more than women, who are more likely to perceive objectivity. Cynicism about motives appear to peak in the 40s, especially concerning liberal biases. It also peaks in the middle-income brackets, rather than among the wealthy, as might be expected. Entrepeneurs have the highest sensitivity to liberal bias, outstripping race, age, and income demographics.
It seems rather clear that the American public perceives the media to be biased in a particular direction -- not exactly news to most of us who follow the trends, but perhaps a surprise to the news outlets themselves.
UPDATE: I decided to take a narrower look at the data by focusing on self-identified moderates, which should have the least stake in the outcome of the polling and be more likely to see reporting as objective. The outcomes are very interesting:
Broadcast networks (excluding Fox): 36% liberal bias, 29% objective
Fox: 35% objective, 34% conservative bias
CNN: 36% objective, 29% liberal bias
NPR: 43% objective, 24% liberal bias
Local paper: 33% objective, 27% liberal bias
New York Times: 37% liberal bias, 20% objective
Washington Post: 24% liberal bias, 23% objective, 34% not sure