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Friday, December 16, 2005

UCLA Finds Left Bias Across Mainstream Media

Left-wing media bias is not typically a topic that gets direct attention here - it being assumed to be the case - but occasionally something out of the ordinary comes along that merits specific comment. A new study at UCLA is just such an extraordinary development.

The study was done by professors from UCLA and the University of Missouri and used the Americans for Democratic Action criteria for defining liberalism. The ADA is among the oldest liberal advocacy groups in the country and has for decades rated Members of Congress according to their votes on key issues.

Guess which media organizations came out on top of the rankings as most biased to the Left? Among the 20 major media organizations, all but two showed distinctly liberal bias in their reporting, with CBS' "Evening News," The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times ranked second, third and fourth.

The news pages of The Wall Street Journal were rated as the most biased to the left among the 20 major media organizations. Smack in the middle were PBS' "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," CNN's "NewsNight with Aaron Brown" and ABC's "Good Morning America."

The only media groups among the top 20 scoring to the Right on the UCLA bias scale were Fox News' "Special Report with Brit Hume" and The Washington Times.

Here's how the UCLA News web site describes the study:

"Groseclose and Milyo based their research on a standard gauge of a lawmaker's support for liberal causes. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) tracks the percentage of times that each lawmaker votes on the liberal side of an issue.
"Based on these votes, the ADA assigns a numerical score to each lawmaker, where '100' is the most liberal and '0' is the most conservative. After adjustments to compensate for disproportionate representation that the Senate gives to low‑population states and the lack of representation for the District of Columbia, the average ADA score in Congress (50.1) was assumed to represent the political position of the average U.S. voter.
"Groseclose and Milyo then directed 21 research assistants - most of them college students - to scour U.S. media coverage of the past 10 years. They tallied the number of times each media outlet referred to think tanks and policy groups, such as the left-leaning NAACP or the right-leaning Heritage Foundation.
"Next, they did the same exercise with speeches of U.S. lawmakers. If a media outlet displayed a citation pattern similar to that of a lawmaker, then Groseclose and Milyo's method assigned both a similar ADA score."

One of the professors expressed surprise at the results:

"'I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican,' said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. 'But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are.'

Go here to read the complete UCLA News story.


The Opinionator not only knows one of the profs who did the media bias study reported in UCLA News, but competed against him as a miler in Arkansas back in the day. Go here for the scoop on Prof. Groseclose.


DJW at Lawyers, Guns and Money makes an interesting point about the study methodology:

"Furthermore, what standards are being used to count 'referred to'? A negative story about the NAACP could certainly refer to a comment made by an NAACP spokesperson. Actual think-tank citations are generally authoritative or quasi-athoritative in nature, the same simply can't be said for interest groups."

Worth pondering, folks. The truth is, much of the intensity of the debate about media bias is a product of the unavoidable fact that much of the assessment must be based on subjective evaluations on topics that involve widespread disagreement.