Biased Accounts: Part III

Learning from an existing system

Study parameters

In the initial Social Security study, first published in April 2005, the Business & Media Institute examined the evening news programs on all five major networks - ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News Channel and CNN - between Nov. 15, 2004, and March 15, 2005. This time frame covered the heart of President George W. Bush's proposal to reform Social Security from soon after his re-election through the launch of his '60 stops in 60 days' campaign.

The study analyzed use of liberal and conservative talking points, focusing on 125 stories mostly or completely devoted to Social Security. Talking points on both sides of the issue were coded, designated 'liberal' or 'conservative,' and tallied. If the ratio of talking points for the two sides was greater than 1.5, then that story was considered to reflect the position of the side with the most talking points. Stories that had a 1.5-to-1 or less ratio were categorized as 'neutral.' Overall, liberal talking points outweighed conservative ones by a 2-to-1 margin.