July 23, 2007

Rasmussen: Liberal Bias In American Media

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


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Comments (22)

Posted by Monkei | July 23, 2007 9:49 AM

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.

sounds a lot like the makeup of their polling breakdown per party also.

Posted by La Mano | July 23, 2007 10:09 AM

Moderates = mush heads

Half the moderates don't really believe they are moderates.

Posted by Insufficiently Sensitive | July 23, 2007 10:36 AM

"NPR is one of only two national broadcast outlets where objectivity wins, 37%-27% against liberal bias."

If anything, this statement points to respondents who are selected by their loyalty to the medium, in this case NPR. So of course, slick-talking eggheads are happy that their 'news' is unbiased - because the daily stories agree with the listener prejudices, and the stories NOT covered are omitted from consideration to spare the poor dears from inconvenient truths.

Rasmussen needs to disclose how they selected their poll respondents, and until they do, this citizen is calling bullshit on their sampling.

Posted by not the senator | July 23, 2007 11:01 AM


Exactly. That's what I got out of it. People tended to interpret the bias through the filter of their own beliefs. The Conservatives thought the MSM was liberal biased, the Liberals thought it was conservative biased.

We each see what we want to see, not necessarily what's there.

Posted by Lightwave | July 23, 2007 11:30 AM


FOX is considered objective! Surprise: all along Rupert Murdoch's network really is "fair and balanced".

Posted by Jim | July 23, 2007 11:44 AM

News Flash: The national (non-Fox) media has a liberal bias.

And in other stunning news, a dog was seen chasing a cat; and it rained in Seattle.

Posted by Lew | July 23, 2007 11:56 AM

About the only thing useful here is that the poll shows a discontinuity between the world the media is projecting and the world their customers are experiencing. The media is projecting their version of reality and about two thirds of their customers are replying "No! This is what's real, dummy!"

I would think there might be two possible reactions to the recognition of such a discontinuity; either the media adjusts its message if they have any respect for their clientèle, or they flog it harder in an increased effort to sell their version of reality.

There is a vast sea of subtle wisdom in the old business adage "The customer is always right!". I suspect the problem here is that the media believe that the customer is only right when he agrees with them. Its in line with the media's wildly arrogant notion of their mission to tell us what we "need" to know.

Posted by essucht | July 23, 2007 11:59 AM

There was a ground breaking study on media bias a year or two ago that found that Fox News was one of the least biased news outlets, so the fact that so many people rated it objective isn't surprising.

NPR is surprising as they certainly have a history of not only very strong bias a la Moyers, but of influencing the news intentionally to promote left wing causes a la Nina Totenberg.

Posted by viking01 | July 23, 2007 2:23 PM

I too noticed the polling, uh, anomaly suggesting the hard-line socialist NPR as being objective.

That indicates either a skewing of the poll sampling or the listenership numbers for NPR have become so insignificant that those polled are giving them benefit of the doubt for balance instead of a "don't know" response.

If the latter is the case that makes a strong case for defunding NPR not to mention the equally puerile, Clintonian dreck coming from PBS. That bitter Bill "Tipsy" Moyers still mooches from both venues demonstrates that the standards at both are now equally low.

Posted by TW | July 23, 2007 3:31 PM


The media is -supposed- to be 'liberal' if they are doing their job correctly. We -want- a liberal media that dares to say the things that upset the establishment. That's their job. A 'conservative' view would report that everything is fine, just follow the leader.

Posted by janet | July 23, 2007 4:01 PM

This entire poll seems fishy - questions:
1 - Were the only options liberal or objective? 2 - If so, since when is "objective" supposed to be the opposite of "liberal"?
3 - What about "conservative"?
4 - Does that mean Rasmussen now believes "objective" = "conservative"? Somehow, I doubt this.

I don't think anything can be concluded from this. Of course, I may be missing something here.

Looks to me like pollsters better go back to polling 101 and figure out how to ask the right questions.

Posted by Rana Quijotesca | July 23, 2007 4:04 PM

I would like to point out the difference between perceived bias and actual bias (the fact that you can perceive something that isn't exactly true). I would also like to point out how it is either dishonest or naively simplistic to imply that there is no difference...

Posted by jaeger51 | July 23, 2007 11:46 PM

Several comments on here made me wince...first, "liberal media is supposed to upset the establishment"...? The establishment IS liberal, and has been since the 70s, except for the few glorious years of Reagan. Both Bushes are basically liberals, they're just not anti-American. Liberals want govt. to grow, conservatives want it to shrink and leave us alone. Second, it's NOT surprising that the wealthy think the media is fair. The wealthy is where most of the liberals come from! They are too rich and secure to worry about taxes or most national security issues or the state of the economy as it relates to job creation. Whatever happens, THEY'LL be ok.

Posted by Rose | July 23, 2007 11:51 PM

Gee, funny I have never in my life met a truly objective "moderate" - mostly, I've found them to be appeasers, who just want everyone to "get along" - no matter what theri differences are.

As for Fox, last year, in an attempt to disprove to the MSM that they were Conservative slanted, they published the news that by their own count, they were carrying almost a 60/40 Liberal to Conservative ratio in news stories.

A few weeks ago, when they published the donations of Journalists to the political parties, Fox News journalists were found to be giving about 80% to the Dims.

Real "Balanced".

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | July 24, 2007 12:26 AM

RE: jaeger51 (July 23, 2007 11:46 PM)

...The establishment IS liberal...


...They are too rich and secure to worry about taxes or most national security issues or the state of the economy as it relates to job creation. Whatever happens, THEY'LL be ok...

One small quibble here. The [liberal] wealthy do worry about such things and work very hard to protect their own interests while telling those less fortunate to do with less... and like it. They look for the same tax dodges as their conservative brethren while demanding that government do more, tax more. They insist upon their own security detail to protect themselves while disarming those who cannot afford their own. They'll look to gore other oxes as long as it isn't their own.

Sorry to have digressed here and I agree with just about everything you wrote with the notable exception.

Posted by Pinch Sulzberger | July 24, 2007 6:24 AM

only 37% consider us liberal? Hmmm... I need to give Dowd, Rich, Krugman et al a kick in the pants.

Posted by MarkW | July 24, 2007 6:50 AM


I guess that's why conservatives were so supportive of Clinton. They just believe in blinding following whoevers in charge.

Posted by TW | July 24, 2007 7:34 AM

MarkW -

I was talking strictly about the media itself there, not about conservatives as a whole. Although I do think it's fair to say that conservatives tend to want to conserve the status quo, and progressives tend to want to change it more, hence the descriptive labels. Over time that tension in balance keeps the society both stable and evolving at the same time. That the body politic of the nation has managed to organize itself into the two opposing groups of roughly equal influence is a healthy sign, IMO.

Posted by Aine | July 24, 2007 12:46 PM

Capn Ed, the way you present the story- including your headline- makes it easy for people to miss the point. This study says *nothing* about how liberal/conservative the media is! As poster Rana indicates, the poll ONLY talks about peoples *opinions* on bias in the media.

As most people who read blogs tend to read the ones that they agree with (or balance with an extreme alternate view, which confirms all of their biases against that view), it is not surprising that the above posters are finding it hard to understand that their beliefs as to how others see the world are quite simply wrong. What a concept.

Posted by Lew | July 24, 2007 12:48 PM


An interesting model that! The problem is that it assumes the existence of a healthy middle to mediate the tension you postulate as conducive to a kind of "evolving equilibrium". At this point, that moderate middle is under a ferocious and growing level of fire that will inevitably reduce it to ineffectiveness and the two ends of the spectrum will sooner or later begin to deal with each other as enemies instead of mere adversaries. I greatly fear we are rapidly approaching such a conflict and that the distant sparks out on both extremes ("Earth First" and the "Militias" out in Montana) will grow into real flames.

Every day I see the chasm growing wider and more extensive, between the two extremes. Each year we share fewer and fewer common experiences and each year our vision of the future grows farther and farther apart. We don't even share a commonly understood history or a common set of facts about our most recent history. Most damaging of all, we don't even share a common set of values any more.

Of all the available futures one might extrapolate from the current scenario, evolution and equilibrium seem sadly unlikely to me.

Posted by TyCaptains | July 24, 2007 1:09 PM

Uh, how does a poll about PERCEPTIONS of Bias factually indicate that such a bias actually exists?

So if there was a poll taken in the 1800s where the majority thought that the moon was made out of cheese, that meant it really was?

Brie? Limburger? Guyere?

Posted by TW | July 24, 2007 9:01 PM

Hey Lew,

I understand what you are witnessing and it can seem that way, but I find that individuals from the extreme opposites can be surprisingly reasonable -as- an individual. It's when people are aggregated into larger groups that the polarity gets accentuated. If things get too bad, I expect individuals to step forward and curtail their representatives.

This YouTube thing with the debates is a good first indication that individuals can speak directly to power. I've also worked in government and witnessed the power of an irate letter, at least at the local level.

More communication is always better.