CyberAlert -- 08/25/1997 -- Even Liberals (Not in Media) Realize Media Tilt Left

Even Liberals (Not in Media) Realize Media Tilt Left

  1. A poll found that the more education a person has the more likely they are to see media bias and "moderates and liberals alike see liberal bias in the media twice as often as they see conservative bias."

1) The August 21 CyberAlert offered some examples of leading media figures denying the existence of any liberal bias. I mentioned how a recent survey, that went largely unnnoticed, discovered that even liberals realize the media are biased to the left.

Last fall the Center for Media and Public Affairs retained the Louis Harris Organization to conduct a poll of 3,000 people about public attutudes toward the press. Ted Smith, a communications professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, developed the questions and the poll results have been released in stages since early this year.

From the May/June issue of the CMPA's Media Monitor newsletter, the illuminating section on "Perceptions of Bias," as typed up for me by MRC intern Jessica Anderson, now back in college at a competing Richmond university:

"Concerns about media intrusiveness and negativism have long been widespread. But complaints about bias used to come mainly from political conservatives. Our survey indicates that this limitation no longer exists.

"Majorities of all major groups in the population, including 70 percent of self-described liberals, now see a 'fair amount' or 'great deal' of bias in the news. Only among high school dropouts does the perception of bias drop below 60 percent; among college graduates it rises above 80 percent. In general, perceptions of bias rise along with levels of education and political participation, such as contacting an elected official, contributing money to a party, or writing letters to the editor of a newspaper.

"Although perceptions of media bias have become widespread throughout the population, those who see a liberal tilt outnumber those who detect a conservative bias by more than a two to one margin. Forty three percent describe the news media's perspective on politics as liberal, compared to 33 percent who see it as a middle of the road, and 19 percent who find it to be conservative.

"Once again, even self-described liberals agree: 41 percent see the media as liberal, compared to only 22 percent who find the news to be conservative. Among self-designated conservatives, of course, the spread is even greater: 57 percent say the media are liberal and 19 percent see them as conservative. Political moderates are less likely to see any political tilt in the media, with 30 percent rating them as liberal and 16 percent as conservative.

"Nonetheless, these findings challenge the argument of some journalists that bias is purely in the eye of the beholder. Although conservatives are three times as likely to see liberal rather than conservative bias, moderates and liberals alike see liberal bias in the media twice as often as they see conservative bias.

"Perceptions of liberal bias vary along with social characteristics other than personal ideology. But only African Americans and high school dropouts are more likely to see the media as conservative that as liberal. Men are slightly more likely than women to rate the media as liberal, and the perception of liberal bias also increases along with political participation -- only 34 percent of nonparticipants find liberal bias, compared with 54 percent of regular participants.

"But the most striking differences in perception occur along racial and educational lines. Black Americans reverse the usual pattern, with 40 percent seeing the media as conservative and only 24 percent calling the news liberal. Among whites 46 percent see media liberalism and only 15 percent perceive media conservatism. The differences in perception are even stronger according to educational level. Only 29 percent of high school dropouts regard the media as liberal, compared to 42 percent of high school graduates and 57 percent of college graduates."

To read more of the poll results, go to the CMPA web site: (I'm pretty sure it's .com, but if that doesn't work then try .org)

-- Brent Baker