November 2, 2007

What A Shock -- Liberal Bias In The Media (Update - Read The Report)

Instapundit calls this a dog-bites-man story, but it does have a twist. Instead of the Media Research Center issuing a report on media bias, today's study comes from another bastion of conservative thought: Harvard University. Not only did the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy find that the media treats Democrats better than Republicans, it also finds that the media gives more air time to the Democrats as well:

Just like so many reports before it, a joint survey by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and Harvard's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy — hardly a bastion of conservative orthodoxy — found that in covering the current presidential race, the media are sympathetic to Democrats and hostile to Republicans.

Democrats are not only favored in the tone of the coverage. They get more coverage period. This is particularly evident on morning news shows, which "produced almost twice as many stories (51% to 27%) focused on Democratic candidates than on Republicans."

This seems very strange indeed. Of the two primary races, the GOP's has the most interesting story lines. Republicans don't have a clear front-runner, and the inclusion of Rudy Giuliani has all sorts of intriguing hooks regarding his social-issue positions and the religious component of the base. The Democrats, on the other hand, have all but surrendered to the inevitability of Hillary Clinton.

And yet somehow the media finds more interest in Democratic politics?

There's more about the traditional symptoms of bias:

The most flagrant bias, however, was found in newspapers. In reviewing front-page coverage in 11 newspapers, the study found the tone positive in nearly six times as many stories about Democrats as it was negative. ...

Reviewing 154 stories on evening network newscasts over the course of 109 weeknights, the survey found that Democrats were presented in a positive light more than twice as often as they were portrayed as negative. Positive tones for Republicans were detected in less than a fifth of stories while a negative tone was twice as common.

The graphic at IBD speaks volumes. On the nightly network news shows, Democrats had almost 40% positive coverage while Republicans got 18.6%. Republicans got 37.2% negative coverage, more than twice that of Democrats at 17.1%. NPR's "Morning Edition" -- the content for which taxpayers pay -- gave Democrats more positive coverage, 41%/30%, and Republicans more negative coverage, 20%/5.9%.

And this doesn't involve stories regarding George Bush, either. The excuses from the last study at UCLA on the 2004 election was that the study included stories about current affairs necessarily involving the incumbent President. None of the presidential candidates currently occupy the White House or the executive branch -- which means that the strong negative tilt across all forms of media indicate something else entirely.

Now that Harvard has made the liberal media bias clear, will these media organizations report it? Will they pronounce themselves shocked, shocked! that their professed objectivity has been proven to be an illusion? Or will they simply ignore it and claim ignorance of any bias at all?

UPDATE: For those interested, here's the actual report, rather than the IBD editorial regarding it. Here are a few of the analysis points:

Newspapers

"Another distinguishing characteristic of the print stories studied was tone. Democrats got much more positive coverage in the daily papers examined than they did elsewhere. Fully 59% of all stories about Democrats had a clear, positive message vs. 11% that carried a negative tone. That is roughly double the percentage of positive stories that we found in the media generally. Just under a third (30%) of the front page stories examined were neutral. ...

"Republican candidates, in contrast, were more likely to receive clearly negative stories in print than elsewhere: 40% negative vs. 26% positive and 34% neutral." (page 26-27)

Nightly network news

"Network evening news closely reflected the overall media when it came to dividing time between Democrat and Republican candidates (49% vs. 28%). While all three produced more stories about Democrats than Republicans, at the NBC Evening News the gap was smaller—just an 11 percentage point difference (41% Democrats vs. 30% Republicans) vs. roughly a 30 percentage point gap at ABC and CBS. The tone of coverage in the 30-minute evening newscasts was much more positive toward the Democrats than Republicans." (page 29)

CNN

"The CNN programming studied tended to cast a negative light on Republican candidates—by a margin of three-to-one. Four-in-ten stories (41%) were clearly negative while just 14% were positive and 46% were neutral. The network provided negative coverage of all three main candidates with McCain fairing the worst (63% negative) and Romney fairing a little better than the others only because a majority of his coverage was neutral." (page 32)

That should answer some of the accusations of cherry-picking in the comments section.

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