Only 7% of journalists identify as Republicans
Supports media bias claims
A mere 7 percent of journalists identify as Republicans, and when they do give money to political campaigns they usually donate to Democrats, lending evidence to Republican presidential candidates’ claims that they are facing a hostile audience when they deal with the press.
As Republican candidates prepared for their fourth debate of the primary season last week in Milwaukee, the people doing the questioning were increasingly in the spotlight, with their motives being questioned by the campaigns, voters and even by their fellow journalists.
Self-proclaimed Democratic journalists outnumber Republicans by 4-to-1, according to research by Lars Willnat and David Weaver, professors of journalism at Indiana University. They found 28 percent of journalists call themselves Democrats, while just 7 percent call themselves Republicans — though both numbers are down from the 1970s. Those identifying as independent have grown.
Among Washington correspondents, the ones who dominate national political coverage, it’s even more skewed, said Tim Groseclose, author of “Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind.” More than 90 percent of Washington journalists vote Democratic, with an even higher number giving to Democrats or liberal-leaning political action committees, the author said.
“There’s something in the DNA of liberals that makes them want to go into jobs like the arts, journalism and academia more so than conservatives,” Mr. Groseclose said. “Even if you’re just trying to maximize profits by offering an alternative point of view, it’s hard to find conservative reporters. So it’s natural the media is more liberal.”
The bias factor has become front-page news after last month’s Republican presidential debate, which aired on CNBC, and which has drawn consistently bad reviews for how the moderators handled the questioning.
John Harwood, a CNBC and New York Times reporter who has written pieces on why Republicans are bad for the economy, asked front-runner Donald Trump if his run “was a comic book version of a presidential campaign.” Mr. Harwood later demanded that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, say whether he believed Mr. Trump had “the moral authority” to be president. Mr. Huckabee didn’t take the bait.
“The Democrats have the ultimate super PAC — it is called the mainstream media,” Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the candidates on the stage, said to strong applause from the partisan Republican audience.
The debate was so widely panned that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus suspended future debates with NBC, and officials from different GOP campaigns are negotiating new restrictions on future affairs
David D’Alessio, a communications sciences professor at the University of Connecticut at Stamford, said there is bias in the press, but his research shows it evens out.
“If you stop to think about media as larger than just reporters and owners … they’re business entities and their job is to make money. If you look at where people’s opinions are, they are in the middle, so that’s where a lot of reporting goes because that’s where the eyeballs go,” he said.
Mr. D’Alessio argues that for every liberal news network like MSNBC, there’s a Fox News counterpoint because the market creates that opening. For The Huffington Post online, there’s the Drudge Report online, and for The New York Times there’s the New York Post.
But overall, he says, the mainstream media tend to be more neutral in their tone despite an individual reporter’s ideological preferences, because they want to appeal to both conservative and liberal viewers alike — because that’s where the greatest market is for making money. People only perceive the mainstream media as being biased because of their own biases.
“If a person is ideological, the more closely they’re going to zero in on things they disagree with,” Mr. D’Alessio said.
He conducted an experiment where he gave the same newspaper article to both Republicans and Democrats and told them to circle the bias. Republicans circled the liberal viewpoint in the story whereas the Democrats circled the conservative representation.
“But both sides were represented,” he said. “People need to take a step back and evaluate [that] just because I don’t agree with what someone says in the newspaper doesn’t mean the newspaper is lying about it.”
Mr. Groseclose, an economics professor at George Mason University, said his research does find a tilt even in what he classifies as mainstream press, including publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post and the major broadcast networks — but excluding Fox News and others that have an obvious ideological bent.