Liberal media bias!

Well, with all this liberal media, surely Hillary Clinton is getting a free ride while Trump is getting screwed over.  Right?  Of course, if you’ve actually paid attention for the past 25 years, you’d know that “liberal media bias,” especially when it comes to campaigns, is far more a right-wing talking point than an actual reality.  And, you’d be well aware that the press hates Hillary Clinton.  And we can sure see this in a report from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center.  This chart is pretty key:

Source: Media Tenor, January 1-December 31, 2015. Tone figures based on positive and negative statements only. Neutral statements are excluded.

The report is written by Thomas Patterson, so it’s  well worth reading and damn good stuff.  That said, I’m going to take the lazy way out and just paste Drum’s short riff on it:

Finally, today brings a new study from the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. It’s worth a read, but my favorite part is the chart on the right. It relies on data from Media Tenor, so it hasn’t been cherry picked by the researchers themselves. It shows that (a) only a tiny amount of primary campaign coverage was devoted to issues, (b) of that coverage, Donald Trump’s was 57 percent positive or neutral (!), and (c) Hillary’s was 84 percent negative. That’s issue coverage. Hillary wasn’t just savaged on her tone or her clothing or her poll numbers. She was savaged on the issues, the one place where practically everyone agrees she’s strong and knowledgable. Even if you disagree with her—and that isn’t supposed to affect media coverage—she knows what she’s talking about.

And this wasn’t driven just by Emailgate or Benghazi or whatnot: “Even the non-scandal portion of Clinton’s issue coverage—what she was saying on trade, jobs, foreign policy, and the like—was reported more negatively than positively. Clinton was the only one of the major candidates whose policy platform generated an unfavorable balance of news coverage.” [emphasis in original]

Yes, reporters are more liberal– especially on social issues– than the general public.  But when it comes to campaign coverage, this is not even in the top 100 factors that drive how they report.  I do love the classic Al Franken quote, “To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus.”  To be fair, if all we are talking about is reporting on gay marriage, for example, I think you actually would find a legitimate liberal bias.  But in campaign coverage, the actual issue positions of the candidates hardly matter at all.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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