Concern about liberal bias in the media is widespread in the United States. But soon-to-be published research reveals that while most journalists lean liberal, their ideology does not affect how they cover the news.
John Holbein, assistant professor of public policy and education in the Batten School, joined researchers at two other universities to study whether ideological bias might have a “gatekeeping” effect by influencing which stories journalists consider newsworthy and choose to cover. The researchers drew on multiple sources of information, including Twitter data and a survey of journalists, to evaluate the potential political bias of U.S. journalists.
They found that journalists appear to be “overwhelmingly liberal/Democrats” and that many are, in fact, “far to the left of the average American.” To determine whether that personal ideology influences news coverage, the researchers conducted an experiment in which they sent journalists an email from a fictitious political candidate who was about to launch a campaign; in the email, the journalists were offered the opportunity to interview the candidate. Some journalists received an email describing the campaign launch of a conservative or moderate Republican, while others were contacted about a moderate or progressive Democrat. The researchers found no difference in the probability that journalists would reply to the email based on the candidate’s political ideology.
“Despite the overwhelming liberal composition of the media,” the authors conclude, “there is no evidence of liberal media bias in the news that political journalists choose to cover.”