Saturday, August 25, 2012

Partisan perceptions of media bias

Of the 13 major media outlets queried about by Pew, the only one Republicans trust more than Democrats do is Fox News. "Question everything" is a tired phrase leftists often employ as a means of obtaining morally posturing cheap grace, but the late George Carlin's proscription of it characterizes those on the right better than it does those on the left, at least when it comes to the real time filters through which they view the larger world around themselves:
Children should be taught to question everything--to question everything they read, everything they hear.
Even the WSJ enjoys more credulity among Democrats than it does among Republicans. As a reader of the journal, I don't find this particularly surprising. While the op/ed section is run by neocons, the hard news pages betray the same typical leftism-primarily-by-omission that the NYT and the Washington Post do. Small wonder those on the left so viscerally loath Fox News (which, having recently acquired XM radio, I've begun listening to along with other cable stations in the car, and they strike me as even more sensationalist, unrigorous, and partisan than I remember them being when I watched with regularity in the early 2000s).

I'm not overly eager to wade into the polluted waterways of media bias, but one potentially interesting way to gauge which direction it is 'objectively' perceived to tilt presents itself in the Pew report we're considering here. Respondents were asked to rate the "believability" of 13 news organizations on a 4-point scale, with 3s and 4s indicating believability and 1s and 2s a lack thereof. Correlating the percentages of independents giving each news organization a 3 or 4 with the percentages of Republicans and of Democrats who did the same yields r-values of .26 and .62, respectively.

Wow, so independents' assessments of believability are much more in line with those of Democrats than they are with those of Republicans. Remove Fox News from the comparison, however, and the correlations shift dramatically, to .63 (up from .29) between Republicans and independents and to .49 (down from .62) between Democrats and independents. The independent perception is a little closer to that of Republicans when it comes to most of the media, but is almost as jaded towards Fox News as Democrats are. I interpret this as showing that the soft middle sees a relatively gentle leftward lean across the media landscape with the glaring exception of Fox News, which is perceived as an organ of the GOP.

Parenthetically, local news stations get high marks for believability across the political spectrum and are most trusted overall among those surveyed. Geographic proximity creates familiarity and fosters trust. People don't care much for Congress but they love their own congress critters. Localism is inherently a lot more natural to and comforting for people than all the various strains of globalism are.


Anonymous said...

Fox is like the PBS News Hour in that they invite both sides of a partisan issue to speak their cases. Fair and blanced in theory if not practice. But I agree Fox is likely more partisan lately in response to the blatant Dem bias of MSNBC.
Another thing, you left out CBS Sunday Morning. I've recently noticed how that show is a TV version of NPR Morning Edition, or NPR generally with it's frequent rehashing of '60s-era issues and ideals -- like stuck in time and revisiting their early heydays in civil rights journalism. It's not news to rehash history.

Anonymous said...

Children should be taught to question everything--to question everything they read, everything they hear.

No! Children should be taught mountains of facts because their brains are at the stage for learning tons of stuff.

College students should be taught to question everything.

We have it exactly backwards. We try to teach kids to analyze when they aren't ready which leads them to believe that they can't do it. So they try to memorize the analyses others have made so they can fake it. Then colleges just indoctrinate and punish all dissenters.

You can't analyze stuff if you don't know anything. By not teaching kids enough facts, they are just plain too ignorant to see the patterns.

Consider the news reporting on the unemployment rate, a freakin' useless number for most people. The real number that matters is the labor participation rate. But most people are just plain ignorant and think that the unemployment rate is the labor participation rate. No one in our lying ass media is going to explain that to them and since they think they understand what is being reported, they aren't even going to question it. It is all lies and damned lies.

Labor participation rate is about 64%. That number includes those who are unemployed. That means only 57% of people over age 20 actually have jobs. Got that?

Now most of us lay folks who just speak regular English would call that a 43% unemployment rate, but no magical accounting terms are what are used which give us an unemployment rate of 7% as reported by our beloved Pravda.

Audacious Epigone said...


I don't think I could stomach CBS Sunday Morning under any circumstances, but I'll take your word for it!


Very, very well put. Thank you.