Media Bias: Fact Or Fiction?

The Media Research Council has put out a study showing evidence that the major networks tend to place ideological labels on conservatives far more than they do for liberals. While this study doesn’t prove that there is media bias, it does seem to show that something is up. Geoffrey Nunberg pans the study by indicating some flaws in its methodology, pointing out that if there were more conservatives making news, then there would naturally be more references to conservatism.

Still, I think there’s something to be said for the MRC’s results. So, I decided to do my own quick and dirty survey of the media landscape to see if the MRC’s results were reproducable in other areas of the media. Using the brilliant Lexis-Nexis search term, I did a targeted search of US and international newspapers in the last six months for a set of ideological labels. These are the results:

Search Term Number of Hits Percentage
"conservative media critic" 0 –%
"liberal media critic" 0 –%
"conservative activist" 34 72.3%
"liberal activist" 13 27.7%
"conservative politician" 57 67.1%
"liberal politician" 28 32.9%
"conservative pundit" 7 87.5%
"liberal pundit" 1 12.5%
"conservative thinker" 13 68.4%
"liberal thinker" 6 31.6%
Survey conducted by using Lexis-Nexis to find
all articles containing the search terms in US and international newspapers
in the last six months.

Again, there is a statistically significant imbalance in ideological labels going on here. Now, I don’t pretend to claim that this study is definitive or even that scientific. Rather, interested researches may use this quick and dirty research as a jumping off point for further inquiry. However, there does seem to be a preference for attacking ideological labels on conservatives more than liberals, which could well be an indicator of media bias towards conservatives. Those who refuse to believe that the media has an anti-conservative bias should take a hard look at that presumption – for the evidence for media bias appers to be growing.

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