Pin The Label On The Conservative

Professor David W. Brady and economist Jonathan Ma of Stanford University have conducted an interesting experiment comparing the ideological labeling of liberal and conservative Senators. Without much surprise, their results show that the conservatives were labeled as such significantly more often than liberals were labeled – giving a concrete basis for a common argument for a liberally-biased media.

We have detected a pattern of editorialized commentary throughout the decade. Liberal senators were granted near-immunity from any disparaging remarks regarding their ideological position: Sen. Harkin is “a liberal intellectual”; Sen. Barbara Boxer of California is “a reliably outspoken liberal”; Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois is “a respected Midwestern liberal”; Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York is “difficult to categorize politically”; Sen. Kennedy is “a liberal icon” and “liberal abortion rights stalwart”; and Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey is a man whose “politics are liberal to moderate.”

While references to liberal senators in the Times evoke a brave defense of the liberal platform (key words: icon and stalwart), the newspaper portrays conservatives as cantankerous lawmakers seeking to push their agenda down America’s throat. Descriptions of conservative senators include “unyielding,” “hard-line” and “firebrand.” A taste of Times quotes on conservatives during the period of 1990-2000: Sen. Nickles is “a fierce conservative” and “a rock-ribbed conservative”; Sen. Helms is “perhaps the most tenacious and quarrelsome conservative in the Senate, and with his “right-wing isolationist ideology” he is the “best-known mischief maker.” Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona is “a Republican hard-liner”; Sen. Smith is “a granite-hard Republican conservative”; Sen. Gramm takes “aggressively conservative stands” and has “touched on many red-meat conservative topics,” as “the highly partisan conservative Texan”; Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas is “hard-core conservative,” “considerably more conservative . . . less pragmatic,” “hard-line conservative . . . one of Newt Gingrich’s foot soldiers” and “a hard-charging conservative”; Sen. Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas is “a staunch conservative”; and Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho is “an arch-conservative.”

As the article states, there is a clear bias against conservatives in the papers surveyed.

I conducted a similar experiment over a year ago and found much the same results by doing a simple Lexis-Nexis keyword search. In general, if a partisan label is used, it is to identify conservatives while liberals are either not labeled or painted as being moderates when they are not. It would appear that despite all the hand-wringing by the left about how the media is really controlled by conservatives (which is only true for a very specific subset of the media), the facts show something else entirely.

17 thoughts on “Pin The Label On The Conservative

  1. I find it odd that Mr. “Conservative with Attitude” finds it objectionable that conservatives are being branded with words that suggest attitude.

    “Conservatism with a very thin skin” might be a better motto for the site, Jay.

  2. One thing I’ve long found interesting is that Liberals try to dodge that label, while Conservatives openly proclaim what they are… 🙂

  3. On the contrary, all a politician has to do is proclaim himself “pro-choice” on the abortion issue and he or she is instantly branded a “moderate Republican”. Former California Governor Pete Wilson promoted ideas just as if not more dangerous than Jesse Helms, Phil Gramm, or Tom DeLay could do after months of tireless conspiring, but since Wilson was “pro-choice”, his name was hardly ever mentioned with the adjective prefix “moderate”.

    The same goes for the “South Park Republicans” you described last month, who also manage to march under the banner of a moderate political philosophy despite embracing a worldview that fell out of favor in civilized society during the McKinley administration. While this privileged, youthful branch of the Republican party may be more tolerant of gays and abortion than Jerry Falwell, their combination of apathy and venomous scorn towards any standing progressive institution ultimately puts them to the right of Falwell on issues most prevalent to the maintenance of civilized society.

    By the way, Jay, you gloated on and on about Republican victories in the gubernatorial races in California, Kentucky and Mississippi, so I’m pleased to see that you also reported how Democrat Kathleen Blanco wiped her ass with Republican Bobby Jindal in the Louisiana Governor’s race last night.

  4. Oh spare me your silly little rants. If you honestly believe that economic freedom is contrary to civil society there are plenty of places where there is no economic freedom – might I suggest Cuba or North Korea?

  5. For a guy who so generously throws around the term “straw man” to ridicule his opponents’ position, you seem to have no problem throwing up the most flammable straw man of them all by suggesting that there’s no middle ground between the “South Park” Republican-sponsored system of lawless free enterprise and Cuba or North Korea. When all else fails and your back’s against the wall, call your opponent a Communist….if that’s what your conservative Poli Sci professors taught you in your debate classes, I’d demand a refund.

  6. “South Park” Republican-sponsored system of lawless free enterprise

    Countering a “straw man” with a bigger one is hardly the mark of an intelligent argument.

    if that’s what your conservative Poli Sci professors taught you in your debate classes, I’d demand a refund.

    Conservative? Professor? While I had some excellent professors, none of them could truly be called “conservative” politically by any means.

  7. You really didn’t have any Conservative professors? Gustie ain’t Augie, that’s for sure… I’m convinced that half the faculty is somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan…

  8. I took three Poli Sci courses in college and one economics course. Three of the four professors were conservatives.

    Evidently you failed to pay attention to them…

  9. I had conservative economics professors in college. They still thought that corporations polluted too much with too little regulation. I had one conservative PoliSci professor and about six liberal ones–guess which one did American government and which did IR/comparative politics?

  10. C’mon now, Jay. I said I had only three conservative professors compared to one liberal professor. I don’t know if 100 purveyors of conservative dogma could equate to one sensible liberal.

  11. “guess which one did American government and which did IR/comparative politics?”

    That’s funny- the most right-wing prof at Augie (in my estimation), Dr. Joseph Dondelinger (also, ironically, a naturalized citizen from Luxembourg), is our IR professor. Our American government professors are more moderate.

    Of course, Dondy is also my favorite professor. I learn more from instructors I disagree with than the ones that just make me want to say “ditto”. 🙂

  12. “I learn more from instructors I disagree with than the ones that just make me want to say ‘ditto’.”

    Yeah, there’s a lot to be said for having to continually defend your positions as a learning exercise. Such is life on the Right and the Left, and moderates (God love ’em) are getting hammered from both sides.

    I’d hate to see a truly objective person try and survive a political science curriculum. I don’t actually think it’s possible, and I’m sure it must be painful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.