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The Myth of Liberal Media

A new study confirms what most of us have known for a while — that conservative whining about “liberal bias” in the media is baseless.  It was always difficult to believe. After all, the mainstream media in this country is largely owned by large conservative corporations, and cable news channels like Fox News are little more than government propaganda outlets.

But now, the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, where researchers have tracked network news content for two decades, and whose studies have often been cited by conservatives, did a detailed analysis of the three television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) and concluded that they were much tougher on Obama than on McCain. During the evening news during the first 6 weeks of the general election campaign, of the opinions expressed about Obama, 72% were negative and 28% were positive (over 2.5 to 1 against Obama). For McCain, 57% were negative and 43% were positive (just over 1.3 to 1 against McCain). In other words, the media was twice as negative against Obama as they were against McCain.

What I find especially ironic is when someone from the conservative media (Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, etc.) complains about liberal bias in the media — the white kettle calling the kettle black!



  1. Rich Hudson wrote:

    The sad truth is that the right-wing noise machine’s repeated (and false) accusations of liberal bias work: The propaganda brainwashes the Fox faithful, who repeat the false complaint to the mainstream media, who, not wanting to alienate such a vocal audience, start giving equal time to “both” sides of the argument — even if the wingnut side is complete b.s.

    Monday, July 28, 2008 at 7:45 pm | Permalink
  2. Frank wrote:

    the syllogism,

    “for six weeks the 3 major networks’ coverage was tougher on obama than mccain, therefore the media as a whole does not have a liberal bias,”

    is pretty unpersuasive. Perhaps if you could come up with data points for campaign contributions, voting trends you could properly rebut the myth….oh wait.

    Saturday, December 13, 2008 at 2:14 pm | Permalink
  3. Joe wrote:

    wow this is pretty weak. there are lots of ways to prove this bias exists. here’s one example that’s very easy.

    during the reporting of the blagojevich scandal, only one of the three networks mentioned the word “democrat” in their evening news coverage. on the three morning shows, the word democrat was NEVER mentioned in the reporting.

    during the larry craig scandal? you guessed it, the word republican was mentioned 6 out of the 6 shows, and numerous times.

    you can’t be serious if you don’t think the coverage for obama was unbelievably kid-gloved. you’re just not paying attention.

    Saturday, December 13, 2008 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  4. Wayne wrote:

    I agree with Joe. I have been watching this BS for the last 25 years and it has gradually gone to never mention the political party of a Demo accused of wrong doing to always mention the repub party. But come on you guys, both these parties are drinking buddies with each other. The news and their public speaches are just there to keep us peons at each other’s throat. Great site tho, loved Robbin Williams.

    Monday, December 15, 2008 at 5:17 pm | Permalink
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    MSNBC uses commentators like olberman and maddow in formats that are presented as anchoring? Their coverage is just like their shows, Satire. Nobody informed can take them serious.
    There is far less squawking from the right about bias than there is from the left squawking about the “right” complaining.
    How is it that 70% of Democrats polled had no idea whoo has the majority in the houses at this time, let alone how this works. Because the news they watch never bothers to point this up. This is more than media bias, ITS MANIPULATION!

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 5:27 pm | Permalink
  6. Martha Warner wrote:

    It’s time to stop using the color “black,” as in
    “calling the kettle black” as something
    undesirable.Find other ways to express

    Martha Warner

    Thursday, December 18, 2008 at 7:31 am | Permalink
  7. Jay wrote:

    Martha, you’re on to something.
    From now on everyone shall remember to call the kettle unwhite……. Another PC problem solved……………..

    Thursday, December 18, 2008 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  8. Auntie Hosebag wrote:

    Frank, Joe, Wayne, and the ubiquitous “Anonymous”:

    Ladies, you just don’t get it, do you? The reason those who flatter themselves with the term “conservative” when what they actually mean is “authoritarian” are constantly whimpering about the imaginary “liberal bias” in the media is this: most members of what you refer to as “the media” have college degrees, which in and of itself means virtually nothing, but the simple truth is it is very difficult to obtain such a piece of paper without finding yourself exposed to differing viewpoints, people from different places than you came from, and classes that force you to ask QUESTIONS about things, instead of just believing what some authoritarian asswipe tells you to believe or else you’re going to an imaginary hell. You spend four or more years in such an environment and you naturally bring a lot of that with you into your career. If that career happens to be in front of a camera, well, lots of people see that. To the simpletons who flatter themselves with the term “conservative” when what they actually mean is “authoritarian”, these concepts are usually as alien as multi-syllabic words, or crocodiles in tuxedos. You see, in order to be a modern “conservative”, you must be deliberately ignorant, belligerently hostile toward anything that even remotely resembles independent or original thought, deeply suspicious of anyone who looks, talks, thinks, eats, or dances in a way different from yourself, and paranoid in the extreme that whoever the authoritarians-on-high deem the Enemy of the Week is right now trying to sneak into your neighborhood bar. Most so-called Red State Americans never travel more than 20 miles from the place of their birth, and they come to believe, from a very early age, that the way things are done in their neighborhood is the way they’re done everywhere in the world. They simply don’t trust anyone or anything that doesn’t fit that mold, so you can see how they would be suspicious of the images and stories presented by those whose experience of the world has been substantially more expansive and enlightened. As mentioned at the top of this article, “the media” in this country is owned almost entirely by very conservative corporations, their agendas driven by very conservative boards of directors whose main concern is for their shareholders, not “liberal’ causes or coverage. And if you think newsrooms are autonomous and controlled by a secret cabal of left-wing rabble-rousers with a “socialist” agenda and the like, you really need to get out more. I would also suggest you grow up.

    Sunday, December 21, 2008 at 1:51 pm | Permalink
  9. Iron Knee wrote:

    It’s a shame — the word conservative used to mean something very different, and some things that (once upon a time) were important. Things like individualism, and limited government.

    What happened to all that? When did the Republican party become the party that only believes in greed and authoritarianism?

    Sunday, December 21, 2008 at 3:24 pm | Permalink
  10. Rick wrote:

    Auntie Hosebag finally nailed the REAL reason that the perception of liberal and conservative bias exists at all. Liberals HAVE to be anti-conservative, not because they are ‘enlightened’ or more informed about worldly things; rather, the core issue, as Auntie notes, is religion. In order to proclaim that there is no God (or hell or heaven or miracles or Jesus or public prayer, etc.) or, believe that only select portions of the Bible are true, you CAN NOT be anything closely related to conservative – ergo, you have no choice but to become an enlightened liberal. It is a curious phenomenon that liberals are entitled to hold opinions, but anyone disagreeing (i.e. a conservative) is labeled as “whining, authoritarian, ignorant, hostile, simpletons”? The list of educated, some genius level, people who throughout history have believed in God is too long to print.
    The fact that some people believe in the God of the Bible does not make them wrong (since no inarguable proof exist one way or the other). Nor does it make them biased; they simply have a different opinion.
    Here is a simple truth – If those who believe in the God of the Bible, are wrong and those who do not believe are right, then we live, we die and that is all there is. But if the reverse scenario is true, then it would behoove all mankind to at least consider the evidence before pronouncing judgment. Just because one holds a strong opinion on a subject does not, necessarily, make one right.

    Sunday, December 21, 2008 at 7:32 pm | Permalink
  11. Al Travis wrote:

    This whole web site is liberal. No expectation (or hint) for balance here.

    Monday, December 22, 2008 at 12:50 pm | Permalink
  12. Iron Knee wrote:

    I tried to post some conservative humor, but I couldn’t find any.

    hee hee.

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008 at 4:38 pm | Permalink
  13. tc1000 wrote:

    You have to be kidding! Liberals don’t recognize how biased the media is because the mainstream media
    parrots exactly their delusional beliefs. Any objective observer can seem that the media is overwhemming liberal/left in its world view. The notion that the media must be conservative because it is owned by alle4gedly conservative corporations ignores the fact that corporate America is not at all conservative and exercises little or no editorial control over news broadcasters.

    Friday, December 26, 2008 at 11:59 am | Permalink
  14. Edward C Weber wrote:

    Let’s define liberal. A liberal, in my mind, is at least a socialist by my 8 years of college education. American media is at most center-left in its news coverage, MSNBC is center-left. Therefore American news media is hardly liberal. It may be considered by you rightwing wingnuts to be liberal but by spectrum analysis it is not liberal.

    Sunday, December 28, 2008 at 12:44 pm | Permalink
  15. Elaine wrote:

    Wow . . . great post. Like many, I’ve always rankled at the “liberal media” allegation, thrown around frequently in my family, where certain members insist that Fox News is the only balanced reporting around! Great to have data – – and love you highlighting the fact that the media is owned by large corps who do not have a liberal bias. Great work.

    Tuesday, January 6, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink
  16. Ena Brooks wrote:

    Here is one for you:
    Happy New Year!

    I want to be the first to send you Happy New Year greetings …

    As I reflect on 2008, I can say we had a great year:

    Blacks are happy; Obama was elected.

    Whites are happy, OJ is in jail.

    Democrats are happy; George Bush is leaving office.

    Republicans are happy: Democrats will finally quit saying George Bush stole the 2000 election

    And all of us are happy; The election is finally over!

    2009 should be even better: Immediately after his inauguration, Obama will balance the budget, revive the economy, solve the real estate problem, solve the auto industry problem, solve our gas/alternative energy problem, stop the fires and mudslides in California, ban hurricanes and tornadoes, stop identity theft, reverse global warming, find Osama, solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, get rid of corruption in government and achieve world peace. Then on the 7th day, He will rest.

    When this country goes to pots, you have no one to blame but your self.

    Friday, January 9, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink
  17. brooklynjon wrote:

    Wow, is Auntie Hosebag for real or is it satire? It’s a little hard to tell. Exposure to diverse opinions in university? THERE’S a hoot!

    In any event, the greatest threat to news reporting, in my opinion, is not who has more negative or positive mentions (and by the way, 72/57 is not more than two, no matter how much you try to distort math to amplify your point). The bigger issue is that in newsrooms such as the New York Times, it is not possible to find a news reporter who is actually a conservative. In such an environment, it becomes difficult to keep straight what is a fact and what is an opinion. Were the major media outlets in this country in conservative-majority areas, the opposite would be true, but they are not. And in media organizations’ laudable campaigns to promote diversity in their workplaces, it is rarely considered that diversity of opinion may be at least as important as diversity of skin color, eye shapes, and reproductive organs.

    a Registered Democrat from the most diverse census tract in the country

    Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 11:58 am | Permalink