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Measuring News Media Bias

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Social policy is usually discussed by liberal Democrat newscasters, and economic policy is typically discussed by moderate to conservative Washington-based reporters. However, publishers and CEOs tend to be Republican.

There are two methods of content analysis to determine bias: non-objective reports reveal massive partisan bias; however, most objective reports reveal no systematic partisan bias. The exception is Groseclose & Milyo's study that found media bias in a scientific and reliable manner. However, Groseclose & Milyo actually measured media bias via the following novel steps:

  1. Collect ADA scores for Members of Congress.

  2. Transfer ADA score from Members of Conress to Think Tanks. This was performed by recording the frequency with which a Member of Congress cited a particular Think Tank to support a claim. The rationale is that Con/Lib rely on Con/Lib Think Tanks.

  3. Transfer Think Tank ADA scores to media outlets. The rationale is that Con/Lib Think Tanks are cited by Con/Lib media outlets.

The findings (Figure 1, Page 62) were that most media outlets were more liberal than the average voter. Also, every media outlet was more liberal than an average Republican in Congress and every media outlet except Wall Street Journal was more conservative than an average Democrat in congress.

People perceive FOX News to be as conservative as Mitch McConnell and NYT as liberal as Nancy Pelosi. However, FOX News is actually as conservative as Susan Collins and NYT is as liberal as Joe Lieberman. Media bias noticed by audiences is all about perception: the people are extreme, not the media. A very liberal senator will view an unbiased report as conservative.