How Biased is the Media? Tim Groseclose, Author of Left Turn, Answers Your Questions

Last week we solicited your questions for Tim Groseclose, a political science professor at UCLA and author of the new book, Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. The response was fast and furious. A total of 149 questions (and counting) have been posted in the comments section. We selected 14 of them for Groseclose to answer, and he obliged us quite promptly. As always, thanks to all for participating.

 

Q. Why does liberal media bias exist in the first place? What would you suggest as a way that a) journalists could be more aware of their own bias and limit it in their reporting; or b) the profession of journalism could attract a more unbiased (or merely more representative) cohort? – Jack

A. The main reason why bias exists, I believe, is simply that newsrooms are filled overwhelmingly with liberals. Here’s the most important fact to know, if you want to understand media bias: If you poll Washington correspondents and ask “Who’d you vote for last election?”, about 93% will say the Democrat.

Why are newsrooms so liberal? I don’t know, except that I suspect that it’s mainly self-selection. I believe that there is something in the DNA of liberals that makes them want to pursue careers like journalism, academia, and the arts.

A manager or owner of a media outlet could try to counteract this by trying to hire more conservatives, but he will have a hard time trying to find conservatives who want to be journalists. He’ll either have to pay conservative journalists more or be willing to hire conservative journalists who are not as good at reporting as liberal journalists. It’s a hard problem for a news-outlet manager to solve. I basically believe we’re in an equilibrium  – that liberal bias is basically here to stay.

How can journalists be aware of their own biases?  One way is to read Chapter 11 of my book, “The Anti-Newsroom, Washington, County, Utah.”  In the chapter I search for a place that votes the opposite of a newsroom – 93-7 for the Republican. It’s basically impossible to find such a county, but one that comes close is Washington County. I interview lots of people in the county to give the reader a sense of what political views in the anti-newsroom are like.  If journalists think about how conservative, and maybe even strange, views are in the anti-newsroom, they may begin to realize how liberal, and maybe even strange, views are in actual newsrooms.

And if a journalist is really serious about understanding his or her own biases, he or she could visit Washington County, Utah.  One of its residents, Tom Seegmiller, has agreed to host such journalists.  Seegmiller is the owner of Dixie Gun and Fish and the Locker Room, an athletic supply store. If such journalists are interested, they should contact Seegmiller at one of his two businesses. Seegmiller is even willing to take such journalists to church with him. And if they desire, Seegmiller is willing to take such journalists hunting with him.

Q. How do you account for the filter bubble effect — that liberals and conservatives alike listen to media that doesn’t challenge their views? – Rachel

A. All my results about where people get their news involved surveys about where independents get their news.  I ignored the results involving Republicans and Democrats.

Although Republicans and Democrats probably do get their news from vastly different sources, in one sense it hardly matters.  To win a nationwide election, you need to win over the independents. Republicans and Democrats basically cancel each other out. To change policy, the key is to persuade independents/moderates.

Q. My question is this: is self-selection at work in media companies (both the liberal and conservative medias)? And, what other occupations have strong political self-selection? Are bankers more likely to be conservative? Are artists and actors more likely to be liberal?  - Caleb b

A. Yes, I think self-selection is the key. But it feeds on itself. That is, once the newsroom becomes overwhelmingly liberal, it becomes less pleasant for conservatives. Consequently, conservatives become even more reluctant to become journalists.

As a conservative professor, I can speak from experience, that when people from one political group begin to dominate an organization, they can sometimes become a little sanctimonious and tedious.  See, for example, page 4 of my book, where I describe an email that my co-author received from one of his fellow University of Missouri professors.  (I think Amazon allows you to read the page for free.)

I think probably the most conservative profession is military officer.  So I hear, military officers vote about the opposite way that journalists vote.

Q. What role does religion play in these biases? Michele Bachmann and Jim DeMint are both Christian ideologues, and while there are certainly “anti-religion” ideologues on the left, neither Barney Frank nor Nancy Pelosi would qualify. – Lawrence

A. I think you are probably right; there are no strong anti-religion ideologues in Congress. But I think the vast majority of Americans are fairly pro-religion.  If America were divided 50-50 on religion vs. anti-religion, I believe you’d see more anti-religious ideologues in Congress.

But just because there are two sides to an issue, that does not mean that a reporter should give each side equal treatment.  That is, “unbiased” does not always mean giving equal treatment to two sides of an issue.

For instance, lots of people (and I am one of them) believe that the evidence suggesting (i), that the earth is warming, is greater than (ii), that the earth is not warming.  Thus, to be unbiased, I believe that a reporter should give more favorable treatment to (i) than (ii).

A hero of the left, Edward R. Murrow, may have made this point best. Interestingly, he used a religious example to make the point:  To insist upon such an artificially equal treatment of two sides of an issue “is like balancing the views of Jesus Christ with Judas Iscariot.”

 

Q. Agreed; I think the strongest counterpoint to Mr. Groseclose’s premise is, what would the presidential split have been if all the influential media outlets weren’t owned by conservatives (re: Disney, Murdoch/Newscorp, GE, etc.) – cackalacka

A. I’m not sure I agree with the premise. If GE shareholders and executives are so conservative and have such power over their journalists, wouldn’t that cause Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz to have a conservative bias? For much of the time that John Stossel was at ABC, the chairman of the Disney Board was George Mitchell – the former senator who’s PQ is about 80.  If corporate executives are so powerful, wouldn’t we have seen a liberal bias from Stossel?

The New York Times is a corporation with two classes of shareholders. The class that has control over running the company contains a relatively small number of shareholders. The same is true with the Washington Post. I’m sure that with each company the shareholders are very liberal.

Meanwhile, the Washington Times is not a corporation (it is owned by the Unification Church), yet its slant is fairly conservative. So I’m not sure that it’s true that corporation-owned media companies tend to be more conservative than non-corporation-owned media companies.

To answer your question about the presidential election, suppose that for some reason all the media moved left – say all media began adopting a Slant Quotient of 74, like the New York Times. This would mean that the overall Slant Quotient of the media would move from 58 to 74, a change of 16 points. This would give Democrats an extra advantage of about 8 percentage points. Assuming everything else constant (e.g. Obama and McCain are still the candidates and they adopt the same policy positions as they did in the actual election), then, according to my results, Obama would have won by approximately 61-38, instead of the actual result, 53-46.

Q. And as a follow-up… if there exist institutions that provide a conservative bias, how do their ratings compare to one with a liberal bias?  - Matthias

A. Well, I suppose that one of the most conservative groups in America is officers in the military. I’m not sure what it would mean to calculate a slant quotient for them.

 

Q. Given that the politics of the USA are significantly more conservative than most other developed nations, how applicable are your findings to an analysis of the mass media in other countries?  - Brennan Young

A. Yeah, my book is completely silent on that question. I agree that other nations are generally more liberal than us. If I’m right, that there’s something in the DNA of liberals that makes them go into journalism, then I’d at least speculate that in other countries journalists similarly adopt a Slant Quotient to the left of the country’s average Political Quotient. But that’s just speculation, not evidence.

Q. Aren’t there other – perhaps more important – ideological axes than liberal/conservative? (e.g. statist vs. grassroots) – Brennan Young

A. Yes, there are definitely other axes.  E.g. you could imagine a libertarian/anti-libertarian axis. But I’m not sure they are more important.  Please see, for instance, my discussion on pages 40-44 of political scientist Keith Poole and the Nominate scores he created.  Nominate estimates a numerical score for politicians on the “dimension of maximal conflict” within Congress.  According to Nominate, politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank are at one end, and politicians like Michele Bachmann and Jim DeMint are at the other. That is, the “dimension of maximal conflict” puts far-right conservatives at one end and far-left liberals at the other. It does not put libertarians like Ron Paul at one end and anti-libertarians at the other.  Accordingly, Nominate suggests that the liberal/conservative dimension is indeed the most important dimension, at least in Congress.  (This is not to say that in future years, things might change.)

Q. How does PQ vary by age and education? If more education is correlated with higher PQ, does that explain media bias since most journalists are required to have a college education? – Sam

A. It turns out that the people with the least education (non high school graduates) and those with the most education have the most liberal views. The voters with the most conservative views are those with intermediate amounts of education – those with only “some college” and those who completed a bachelor’s degree but did not attend grad school.

Q. How do you reconcile your conclusions with the fact that Americans appear to choose media you label as liberally biased when they have more conservative options? Why doesn’t the media reflect the supposedly conservative viewpoint of its consumers? Does the media really drive consumer thought in an open media market, or is the opposite true? – Ricky C

A. I think a lot of it is simply that it’s hard for a media organization to hire conservative reporters.  I know that if academia suddenly decided “we need a balance of conservative and liberal professors,” then the next question that deans and department chairs would ask is “Okay, where do we find the conservative professors to hire?”  I suspect something similar occurs with the media. Conservatives just don’t tend to want to enter into journalism, at least not at the same rate as liberals.

As a consequence, news outlets can hire liberal reporters at a lower wage rate than they would have to pay if they insisted on hiring conservatives. They can probably also get higher quality reporters if they’re willing to hire more liberals, simply because the pool of liberal reporters is larger than the pool of conservative reporters.

As I understand, a similar issue arises in baseball. Teams want a balance of right- and left- handed pitchers. But the pool of right-handed pitchers is much higher than that of left-handed pitchers (since there are much more right-handed people in the population than left-handed people).  As a result, on lots of objective measures – e.g. throwing speed – right-hand pitchers tend to be better than left-hand pitchers. I think something similar might be occurring with liberal and conservative reporters.

Q. American public opinion is fickle on important issues. It is hard for me to consider the average American voter the “center” when that center appears to be a sporadically moving target. When talking about a “center”, you expect something a little more stable even as it shifts. Journalists, more ingrained with the issues and needing to maintain integrity over time, would have more stable opinions. Do you look at shifts over time? Do you have a PQ moving average? How does this compare to journalistic PQ?    – Ricky C

A. Well, events cause us to change our views.  I know my views have evolved over the years.  (E.g. I used to think that abortion was okay when the fetus is three months old.  But having a kid and seeing a sonogram changed that view.)

Nevertheless, I’d argue that, at least over the last half century or so, the American center has been pretty stable.  E.g. if you check page 50 of my book, you can see a graph of how the center (i.e. average PQ of American voters) has evolved.  Between 1960 and 2009, it’s remained within the 47-58 range, and usually it’s been very near 50.

Although I have a few surveys over how journalists vote in elections, I don’t have much data about their PQs.  Part of the problem is that journalists are so reluctant to reveal their political views.  If it were up to me, they’d be more transparent about such things.  (See, e.g., the epilogue of my book.)

Q. Of the actual voting public what’s the percentage of viewers that get their news exclusively from the liberal media? What’s the percentage that gets it from both liberal and conservative view points? What’s the percentage getting their news exclusively from conservative viewpoints? What prevents one set of viewers from changing their news consumption habits? Is selection of media source an indication of enlightenment?  - Deron

A. My answer to the first four questions is “I don’t know.”  As for the fifth question, yes, I believe that anyone who has a PQ under 20 (like me) yet chooses to subscribe to the New York Times (as do I) is enlightened. I’d say the same thing about anyone who has a PQ above 80 yet chooses to frequently read the Washington Times or frequently watch the O’Reilly Factor or frequently listen to Rush Limbaugh.

Q. Do you have PQ scores for economists? I’d like to cross-reference this with the economists’ track records over the last 10 years so I can decide whether your idea of PQ is poppycock.  - Ben

A. No, but on page 112 of my book I review the work of Dan Klein (at George Mason University) and Christopher Cardiff (at San Jose State University).  They have tracked the voting behavior of economists and other professors. They find, for instance, that in a typical presidential election economics professors vote about 2.8:1 for the Democrat.  (In sociology the ratio is 44:1; in political science 6.5:1; in electrical engineering 2.5:1, and in finance 0.5:1.)

As for economists having poor track records, I might agree with you, at least when it comes to macroeconomics.  I believe that in 200 years people will look upon the current state of macroeconomics the way we look upon blood-letting doctors of two or three centuries ago (i.e., that they had no idea what they were doing).


Q.
During the Depression, the overwhelming majority of newspapers opposed Franklin Roosevelt. Yet he won 3 re-elections easily. Does that mean that without the opposition of the newspapers, he would have won even more easily? – Paul

A. My results suggest yes – the media really do influence the way people think and vote.

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

 

COMMENTS: 86


  1. David Wright says:

    I got through the first Q and A –> Liberals don’t hunt? Is that a conclusion based on Tom Seegmiller’s invitation to journalists? Go north to Saskatchewan in Canada, home of the first socialist government in NA, birth place of Canadian healthcare, and I guarantee you will find a lot of hunters. When I lived there, many of my friends had a deer or two in the basement freezer.

    As I have learned from my reading of Freak and Super-Freakonomics, conclusions are often based on false premises.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 42 Thumb down 11
    • James says:

      There are likewise a number of more-or-less conservative treehuggers out there, too. Which is not to say that one can’t simultaneously be a hunter and a treehugger, regardless of one’s politics.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 3
    • Marty says:

      In the last federal election, the Conservative party won 13 out fo 14 seats in Saskatchewan. Provincial Saskatchewan politics is dominated by the Saskatchewan party which is conservative.

      Despite it’s history, Saskatchewan is now a conservative province. It’s pretty remarkable that the NDP lost their base so completely.

      Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1
      • Winghunter says:

        Approximately 20 years ago Canada’s version of Republicans split their base in half and did not win a single major election UNTIL this last federal election.

        That’s called an act of suicide followed by a final revolt against Socialism.

        Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  2. Alvaro Fernandez says:

    Maybe getting the conservative journalists is difficult but appointing a conservative ombudsman could help.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3
    • Mike B says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

      Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 23
      • Alvaro Fernandez says:

        Journalism is about FACTS and not about being CATALYST. It must be differentiated form OPINION commentary. Journalism as a catalyst of change is POOR journalism.

        This is why I hate idiotic labels. Only in the English language does “liberal” mean someone who leans to the left, in the rest of the world it’s equivalent to libertarian. The “conservative” label (which I hate) is regarding the role of government: few rules and let the persons and markets run free without uber bureaucrats meddling.

        From Nolan charts I know I lean to the right. Is there such a thing as a hawkish libertarian? That’s me!

        I’ll borrow from cato.org:

        Today, those who subscribe to the principles of the American Revolution — individual liberty, limited government, the free market, and the rule of law — call themselves by a variety of terms, including conservative, libertarian, classical liberal, and liberal. We see problems with all of those terms. “Conservative” smacks of an unwillingness to change, of a desire to preserve the status quo. Only in America do people seem to refer to free-market capitalism — the most progressive, dynamic, and ever-changing system the world has ever known — as conservative. Additionally, many contemporary American conservatives favor state intervention in some areas, most notably in trade and into our private lives.

        “Classical liberal” is a bit closer to the mark, but the word “classical” fails to capture the contemporary vibrancy of the ideas of freedom.

        “Liberal” may well be the perfect word in most of the world — the liberals in societies from China to Iran to South Africa to Argentina tend to be supporters of human rights and free markets — but its meaning has clearly been altered in the contemporary United States.

        The Jeffersonian philosophy that animates Cato’s work has increasingly come to be called “libertarianism” or “market liberalism.” It combines an appreciation for entrepreneurship, the market process, and lower taxes with strict respect for civil liberties and skepticism about the benefits of both the welfare state and foreign military adventurism.

        This vision brings the wisdom of the American Founders to bear on the problems of today. As did the Founders, it looks to the future with optimism and excitement, eager to discover what great things women and men will do in the coming century. Market liberals appreciate the complexity of a great society, recognizing that socialism and government planning are just too clumsy for the modern world. It is — or used to be — the conventional wisdom that a more complex society needs more government, but the truth is just the opposite. The simpler the society, the less damage government planning does. Planning is cumbersome in an agricultural society, costly in an industrial economy, and impossible in the information age. Today collectivism and planning are outmoded and backward, a drag on social progress.

        Libertarians have a cosmopolitan, inclusive vision for society. We applaud the progressive extension of the promises of the Declaration of Independence to more people, especially to women, African-Americans, religious minorities, and gay and lesbian people. Our greatest challenge today is to continue to extend the promise of political freedom and economic opportunity to those who are still denied it, in our own country and around the world.

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      • Short Bald Guy says:

        Journalism masquerading as “journalism” is activism. Plain and simple. Lying about it makes it worse. The extrapolation you put forth of the term “conservative” is, well I must be respectful, misguided and rather shallow take on what it means to be a conservative in America. Reminds me of a thought process born from sitting around and smoking in a friends basement and eating Cheetos in high school.

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  3. Rachel says:

    Way to not use the part of my question that actually challenged the author to qualify for his own assumptions.

    “The average American voter, he argues, has a PQ of 50. Liberal Democrats Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi both have a PQ of approximately 100; conservative Republicans Michele Bachmann and Jim DeMint have a PQ of approximately 0. If we could “magically eliminate liberal media bias,” Groseclose writes, the average American would have a PQ closer to 25, and would be more in line with people like Ben Stein, Dennis Miller and Bill O’Reilly.”

    By the author’s reasoning, if we eliminate “liberal media bias”, then the average American ends up….exactly where he places prominent conservative media commentators. That’s not “magically eliminating liberal media bias”, that’s “replacing liberal bias with conservative bias.”

    Also, I’m very disappointed with the answer to the question that was apparently considered “safe” for this author to answer.

    “All my results about where people get their news involved surveys about where independents get their news. I ignored the results involving Republicans and Democrats.
    Although Republicans and Democrats probably do get their news from vastly different sources, in one sense it hardly matters. To win a nationwide election, you need to win over the independents. Republicans and Democrats basically cancel each other out. To change policy, the key is to persuade independents/moderates.”

    First of all, back up your answers: use citations. Where do independents get their news? List your sources. I’m pretty sure there’s not one magical news station that all independents — and only independents — use.

    Further, not all independents are independents for the same reason: you can’t lump them together. In my own personal experience (which I would hardly use as the basis for a book without backing it up with readily available data), independents get news from a variety of sources, including liberal-leaning publications, conservative-leaning publications, and whatever favorite celebrities say to do. Some independents are moderates that don’t fit into a party: some are single-issue voters. You can’t treat them as the same just because it’s convenient for your thesis statement.

    Also, your statement is simplistic to an extreme. Independents aren’t the only factor that decide elections. Off the top of my head, the degree of partisanship is a major factor when it comes to turnout. If the media organizations whip their viewing public into a frenzy, viewers vote. Engagement is important. Both conservative and liberal media organizations excel at this. The issues being discussed are important. Your rubric is not comprehensive, likely because a more comprehensive rubric would dash your theory.

    Not buying your book, but you’ve provided me with an easy target for a potential thesis paper. Thanks!

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    • Mike B says:

      Why do I feel this is some Freakonomics event to teach those that comment here how to confront poorly argued statements and advocacy statistics.

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    • cackalacka says:

      HEAR HEAR.

      I want to thank our hosts for passing along the question, but I want to thank Mr. Gloseclose for tap-dancing around it.

      “I’m not sure I agree with the premise. ”

      I’m not quite sure you understand it. To put it politely.

      Media is owned by affluent interests. Affluent interests are generally averse to change, as they have a vested interest in status quo. In short, one can point to all the Ted Turners and Mitchell anecdotes, but if one buys ink by the barrel, one is likely inherently conservative.

      When the NYTimes Judith-Millers a war, they’re doing it in a grand Hearstian tradition to bolster their bottom lines. When GE owned NBC, they had an interest to boost demand for their newsroom coverage AND their bottom line from their weapons division.

      That’s great that NBC hired Maddow, remember Phil Donahue?

      I do dig the shout-out Cornell West gave your book, but anyone, particularly one who purports to be an academic, needs to be able to reconcile the ‘liberal media’ myth, with the fact that the folks who write the checks for the newsroom staffs are decidedly conservative.

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    • Sam_L says:

      Have you read his book? Or just the summaries posted here?

      It sounds like you haven’t; making conclusions about a study based on summaries doesn’t bode well for the quality of the thesis.

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      • Rachel says:

        Sam – you’re right, I haven’t read his book. And I likely won’t write a thesis on it, as even a cursory Google search reveals numerous issues with Groseclose’s methods, and I’d prefer to do original research. (http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/2005/12/the_problems_wi.html and http://mediamatters.org/research/200512220003 cite methodology issues with the original paper; this Amazon.com review indicates that Groseclose did not correct any of the methodology issues when putting the paper into book form: http://www.amazon.com/review/R2UM2JK5MBN0AA/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0312555938)

        But I’m not reading his book because Groseclose’s performance here has convinced me there’s nothing worth reading there. This kind of press blitz is de rigeur for any academic author promoting a book on a controversial topic. His Q&A here was supposed to drum up interest in his book. And not only did the Freakonomics team select softballs — again, I asked two questions in my post, and they selected the easy one — Groseclose whiffed at every pitch. Why bother buying the cow when you can smell the spoiled milk from here?

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      • cackalacka says:

        Hear hear, again.

        You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but you can detect sloppy thought and bad faith response in a couple hundred words.

        My assertion is hardly controversial (powerful interests own media outlets, powerful interests prefer status quo, ergo media owners usually have a conservative slant.)

        Groseclose whiffs, answering a question he wished he had been asked (useful for a politician, not so much for a purported intellectual) and classifies the Washington Times with ‘slant is fairly conservative’ (understatement) while asserting the masses are in league with his conservatism.

        I really hope Groseclose gives the questions a little more thought. Mine was not a curveball by any stretch of the imagination, and if this publication is an intellectual enterprise, he should be able to account for it. If it is just a salve for wounded conservative ‘intellectuals,’ well, life is too short for these ‘ideas.’

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 10
      • Ian Joshua says:

        After reading the amazon review linked above, I went from being frustrated at the author’s willingness to drink his own kool aid so to speak to being completely comfortable outright dismissing him. His analysis put the ACLU and the NRA only 3 points apart on his (almost entirely baseless, irrelevant) PQ scale, with both organizations to the RIGHT of center – the ACLU at 48.9 and the NRA at 45.9. I really recommend reading the amazon review Rachel mentioned for a well thought out summary of this author’s many mistakes in his original research paper (which would have prevented any true academic from seeking a publishing deal before addressing his methodological errors). If only I had read that review or his original paper earlier so we could have seen his reaction to being confronted with something as unbelievable as his own PQ ratings of the ACLU and NRA.

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      • Rachel says:

        This Q&A really makes me doubt the validity of Freakonomics as a whole — if they’re willing to give a platform to Groseclose despite the well-documented methodological issues (as well as to Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, who had similar methodological issues), how can I trust that any study posted on Freakonomics has statistical validity?

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    • JBP says:

      You make some good points, but you also manage to throw in some pretty bad fallacies. For example, this statement “I’m pretty sure there’s not one magical news station that all independents — and only independents — use. ” is a straw man.

      Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2
  4. Adam says:

    Not once is Fox News mentioned in any way in his answers (Bill’s The Factor was mentioned, but was not used as an example to confirm his argument). I see points in his various arguments to the above questions, but if you do not address Fox News the holy grail for conservatives and it’s influence on conservative bias in the media, then the debate must continue. Fox continuously claims they are the most watched TV network along with their news stories online… If this is in fact true, then Liberal bias can not possibly be as prevalent as the author portrays.

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    • Joe says:

      “Fox continuously claims they are the most watched TV network along with their news stories online… If this is in fact true, then Liberal bias can not possibly be as prevalent as the author portrays.”

      Nope it is simple for there to be an extremely prevalent bias and still have one be an exception. All you need is more than 2 news sources in the media. Which we do. We have more than 2, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, NPR, MSNBC, Huffington post, and hundreds of newspapers.

      Just as if you had 2 football teams, one made up of 5 people, one of whom, at 6’8′, 350 lbs is larger than anyone else on the field, the other side is made up of 500 regular sized people.
      The one side has the single largest person, but is outnumbered 100 to 1. Denoting how you can easily have an overall left leaning media bias, but the right have the one most watched one.

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    • J1 says:

      Fox News is (and claims, correctly, to be) the most watched news network on CABLE, not TV in general. FNC’s audience size is dwarfed by that of even the lowest rated network news broadcast.

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    • Sam_L says:

      Adam -

      Fox can be the most watched news source, and yet not come anywhere near the total viewership of other outlets. Suppose Fox has 25% of total TV news impressions – CNN, NBC, CBS, and ABC could each have a 18.75%. Fox is the most watched, but the total number of liberal impressions would overwhelm Fox 3:1.

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      • James Hanley says:

        It’s not just CNN, NBC, CBS and ABC we have to consider–you’re artificially limiting the journalism world to TV news. You also have to consider the influence of talk radio, which is overwhelmingly dominated by conservatives (Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, etc.). They quite possibly are far more influential than CNN, NBC, etc., combined. Certainly Rachel Maddow plays to far fewer people than Limbaugh does.

        Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2
    • Reg says:

      Fox news is the most watched as a single channel. They don’t lie on that one. But the sum of all other channels’ audience is more. Change the thesis.

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  5. assumo says:

    I wonder where the freakanomics blog fits on the slant scale, and how that compares to the political quotient of the forum participants. I would guess that when critical thinking increases, the effect of media bias would decrease substantially. In the end, wouldn’t reason win the day?

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    • David Wright says:

      “In the end, wouldn’t reason win the day?” if only this were true…

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  6. Tony says:

    Hey guys! I made up a completely dubious ranking system that confirms my own previously held beliefs! Buy my book!

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  7. Mike B says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  8. SVeedub says:

    As a former journalist who worked for a short time in Washington County, Utah, I can say that the newsroom there was certainly more liberal than the populace. However, the influence and the power remained in conservative hands. The views in Washington County are very skewed, as the author suggests, so I understand his analogy with Washington DC newsrooms. I find it hard to believe that Washington DC newsrooms are representative of newsrooms across the country, though. Are there statistics with nationwide samples of how newsrooms vote?

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  9. J1 says:

    “It turns out that the people with the least education (non high school graduates) and those with the most education have the most liberal views”

    Let’s not confuse credentials with education. People with graduate degrees skew more liberal than those with bachelors degrees (though nowhere near as liberal as non HS grads), but that cohort is heavily loaded with graduate degrees in education (the most common graduate degree) and diploma mill MBAs (when I was a public sector employee, everybody I worked with had one). Somebody with a masters in education does not have “more education” than somebody with a B.S. in engineering.

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  10. Marci Kiser says:

    Let’s leave aside the absurd PQ metric (almost as poorly-constructed as the National Review’s ratings). Let’s just focus on what we’ve learned about rigorous political scientist Tim Groseclose. It turns out that political science barely scratches the surface of his credentials.

    1) He’s a geneticist (question 1)

    2) He’s an oppressed minority (question 3)

    3) He can read the minds of our military (question 3 again, and heaven forfend he ever use his telepathy for evil!)

    4) He’s publishing a new dictionary where pro-religion = pro-Christian (question 4)

    5) He’s not just a stock market analyst, but a stock market psychologist (question 5). He knows the political views of stockholders in specific companies, even if he’s never met them (question 5). Not only this, he knows Rupert Murdoch never influenced the political perspective of Fox News, because Rachel Maddow has a job somewhere else!

    6) He’s a lawyer familiar with the unbeatable Chewbacca defense (quesion 5 again). Specifically, when asked about conservative-owned media outlets, his answer is that corporation-owned media companies are not necessarily more conservative than non-corporation-owned media companies, because some media companies are owned by religious cults.

    All of this is, of course, because Chewbacca is a Wookkiee but lives on Endor.

    7) He’s talked to poor people who have read Marx and Alinsky! (question 9 – well, half of question 9. He ignores the age aspect) Wait, what? PQ has no accounting for the level of nuance or justification in one’s views? Nonsense! It’s a *quotient*, for heaven’s sake! It’s practically math!

    8) He’s for affirmative action. That is, he supports raising the wages and lowering the bar of conservative professors and journalists.

    9) He’s the Buddha! (question 12) Well, at the very least he’s enlightened, and he’s enlightened because he reads a newspaper like the New York Times. But if you don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly (both flagrantly advertised as OPINION so they aren’t bound by journalistic ethics), you are doomed by your karma to be broken on the wheel of existence.

    So as the modern-day Goldilocks Buddha, Professor Grossclose knows that somewhere between one of the leading newspapers in the world and Rush Limbaugh is enlightenment.

    10) He’s a mathematical genius (question 14). That is, by taking the argle-bargle of his ‘research’ and stating via the transitive property of pithy insights that it all boils down to ‘the media really do influence the way people think and vote’, if you disagree with the former you disagree with the common sense of the latter.

    Heavens. No wonder conservatives have such a tough time being journalists or educators. Why waste such DaVincian range of expertise?

    I know it’s bad form to question such a multiply-credentialed polymath, but if I may, I’d like to suggest a quote from you in question 7 as a slugline to be placed under your book’s title. So then, it would read:

    Turn Left
    “But that’s just speculation, not evidence.”

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  11. Jestak says:

    Wow, you certainly did a good job of going through the submitted questions and picking the toughest, most challenging ones for Groseclose to answer–Not!!

    You seem clearly to indicate that you, not Groseclose, chose the questions for him to respond to. Your decision to focus on softball questions, while avoiding the ones that challenged his research on substantive grounds, is indefensible.

    You should have a second round where Groseclose has to answer some of the tough questions that you left out this time.

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    • James Briggs says:

      Who knows what kind of deal they have with Groseclose but he will never engage in honest debate because he isn’t a serious academic. Perhaps they want to have their readers to heap scorn on people like him. Others are doing interesting work on political bias and this is a great place to discuss their work.

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  12. Ben says:

    Yeah, this final installment of the Q&A with this guy has not quelled my outrage for Freakonomics. This guy must really have something on Levitt. They must go way back to Elementary school or something. There’s just so much ridiculousness in his answers that I don’t even know where to begin.

    Barney Frank, an ultra-liberal? What, just because he’s gay and he’s from Mass? C’mon he’s in the pocket of big finance as much as any Republican. And of course anyone w/ any sense calls free marketers “liberals,” not “conservatives” like we do in the US. Does anyone honestly believe in 2011 that Republicans are free marketers? C’mon, they’re pro-business, not pro-free markets. Next your gonna tell me Obama is also a wild-eyed liberal. His healthcare plan was pure Gingrich circa 1994. It’s a sop to the health insurance companies (again, pro-business, or “conservative” in US political parlance).

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 7
    • James Briggs says:

      I’m not saying were should get rid of free speech but the media of communication has become so powerful that the truth as become irrelevant. In 1776 the importance of free speech was based on the idea that people said what they believed and the truth would eventually come out. Now that idea seems hopelessly naive. No one says what they believe anymore. Instead speakers hope to shape their readers views through rhetoric. The problem is everything is for sale including the institutions that used to provide the truth. The press is owned and controlled by the right. For example they spread the hoax that Barney Frank so controlled the president and congress that he single-handedly created the mortgage bubble. In academic we have individuals like Groseclose, we see the changes in Freakonomics and have to accept that researchers cheat to get grant money.

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  13. Owen says:

    How can I take you seriously when you compare The New York Times and Rush Limbaugh?

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  14. Jonathan says:

    So in order to be “enlightened” I should be listening to Rush Limbaugh? If that is your idea of a true “conservative” then I’m frightened to see what your “scale” looks like. It is embarrassing that you think anybody should listen to Limbaugh… Here’s a Limbaugh quote for you:

    “The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”

    and another:

    “Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.”

    What a joke

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    • PatrioticUSGlory says:

      Rush Limbaugh employs humor which, because it involves liberal thinking or mob mentality, is likely to be taken literally by them and no one else. You, for instance, are a typical example.

      I believe it unlikely you have listened much to Limbaugh, for if you had, you would find his radio show challenging as it often requires thinking on the part of its listeners. A glib but well-placed comment often has the effect of causing listeners to think outside of their comfort level and learn something.

      The New York Times, and in my opinion ALL liberal media, fails in this regard. It whines, it complains, it skews, and requires obedience to its overall narrative that progressive is not only not evil, but that it is good.

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      • Natalie says:

        Really? The trope that all black people are violent and feminists are ugly is “challenging” and requires thinking on the part of the listeners? Your bar is set awfully low.

        Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3
      • James Briggs says:

        I have listened Rush Limbaugh quite a bit and their is no big whiner on the planet. SEE PEOPLE I told you what they were about. “They want people to think you are racists.” I wan to be fair. Limbaugh is very funny and engages in humor at a high level that you will hear on any other media outlet. Everyday he brings reports on interesting things you won’t hear any place else. He does not want his listeners to think. I remember him trying to convince his audience that McCain was untrustworthy. Bob Dole wrote a letter to counter Limbaugh’s lies. Limbaugh read the letter praising McCain and then said see even Dole doesn’t trust him. Limbaugh uses the same trick every tyrant uses to control the uneducated he says the end is neigh and soon they will destroy American. He predicted that Obama would end all free enterprise and socialize the economy. He predicted that Obama would close down all the radio stations and news papers. He talked about sending Conservatives to camps when they would be brainwashed. If you have any doubts listen to him. Actually everyone should listen to him for a while you will learn something.

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  15. mannyv says:

    Is the bias towards liberalism in newsrooms because conservatives would rather go do things than write about other people doing things?

    “Those that can’t do, teach. Those that can’t teach, write?”

    It has been observed in the past that the press tends to have all the perks of power without any of the responsibilities. That’s almost the perfect job description for an intellectual.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 15
    • PatrioticUSGlory says:

      Aside from the responsibility to submit your work by deadline….

      I find the lack of exposure by most liberals to anything other than liberal perspectives to cause today’s liberal journalists to write rather one-dimensionally for the choir. And I believe that results in declining quality, and with it the decline of the print industry.

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    • James Briggs says:

      The press is owned and controlled by the right. For example they spread the hoax that Barney Frank so controlled the President and Congress that he single-handedly created the mortgage bubble. The list of right wing hoaxes by the press is endless.

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  16. Caleb b says:

    How can the media have a liberal bias when they are owned by profit seeking corporations?

    Someone else said it last time, because they want to make money.

    I like NPR, I’m also a fiscal conservative. When NPR discusses the debt ceiling, all they want to talk about is how we need to raise taxes. Regardless of how you feel about taxes, spending cuts need equal, if not more, time in discussion. Why? Just like my own household, I always want to make more money, but I have WAY more control on how I spend it.

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    • Joshua Northey says:

      To be fair to NPR, I think the speak out in favor of raising taxes because it is the responsible position but an extremely unpopular one.

      So they defend it as their guests certainly won’t. If everyone was all jazzed up about raising taxes NPR would be all over government waste/abuse/fraud. But people don’t need to get riled up about spending, they already are.

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      • D.J. says:

        It’s pretty generous to credit NPR as principled for taking a stand in favor of raising taxes when they clearly have an interest in the government taking in enough tax money to continue to fund them.

        As for how profit-seeking corporations can somehow remain liberal, the answer’s pretty easy. Ever hear of a limousine liberal? Would the boards of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic Monthly, Time Magazine, or Newsweek really intervene to make their publications more conservative in slant?

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    • Winghunter says:

      Go to these two websites and search NPR. Read all of the links and then see if you can ask that question again without blushing. If you can, you might be a Liberal.

      Media research Center http://www.mrc.org/public/default.aspx

      NewsBusters http://newsbusters.org/

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    • James Briggs says:

      Just like my own household, I always want to make more money, but I have WAY more control on how I spend it. Let’s look at your household. Let’s say you quit your job and got a job as a paperboy. When you family wants to buy food you say WAY control how you spend. But a family can’t eat on a paperboy’s salary. The fact that you think that on cent can finance the war in Iraq and Afghanistan by WAY controlling expenses is pathetic.

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  17. Caleb b says:

    “To be fair to NPR, I think the speak out in favor of raising taxes because it is the responsible position but an extremely unpopular one.”

    I don’t know that raising taxes is extremely unpopular. My in-laws are teachers and they are way in favor of raising taxes, just not on themselves. Taxes for thee, but not for me.

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  18. D.J. says:

    The tunnel vision and bizarrely skewed take on reality of the liberal mindset continues to amaze me, though it no longer surprises.

    Throughout several years of my humanities education in college and grad school, I was prodded to find evidence of bias in everything I read. Why would we assume that bias? Well, if a man was involved, he was most likely prone to sexism. If a white person involved, most likely prone to racism. If a straight person, most likely prone to homophobia.

    And yet, when it comes to the incontrovertible fact that the people who report the news (let alone the people who shape minds in our universities) are overwhelmingly of a left-wing slant, the burden of proof become astronomically higher. A white male liberal reporter is, it seems, sadly powerless to completely overcome his inherent racism and sexism. Yet somehow, we can trust that he rises above his liberal ideology to report with complete fairness on political issues.

    Citing the existence of Fox News as some kind of evidence that the media overall are balanced in their views is a weak argument. Fox News outpaces other cable sources in the ratings precisely because it is the only network that gives conservatives the slant they want (if they want that in their news coverage), whereas liberals can turn to MSNBC, CNN, PBS, NBC, CBS, ABC without having their cherished beliefs questioned too violently.

    Does anybody really want to seriously argue that Sarah Palin and George W. Bush get/got the same mainstream media treatment that Barack Obama has and does? That coverage of Obama and McCain was roughly comparable in its slant during the last election?

    Sadly, I’m sure many commenters here would argue precisely that, even though the notion is absurd on its face. If you can’t see that, then you’re part of the problem.

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    • Rachel says:

      I don’t think anyone is trying to argue that media bias isn’t a problem. However — and this is where I have an issue with Groseclose — you and he alike seem to be asserting that media bias is only an issue when it comes from liberals, and it’s totally okay for Fox News to give a conservative slant, and in fact Americans should only receive a conservative slant for their news, and if all of these stupid liberal media outlets would stop their stupid reporting, and everyone only got their news from Fox News, then we would finally be rid of the stupid liberal media bias present in the world, and we would always have safe Republican elections, and Groseclose wouldn’t have been Mean Girl-ed at UCLA, and he would have a glowing book review from the NYTimes, and there would be no stupid liberal people posting mean comments criticizing his methodology on the Freakonomics blog, and the world would be a significantly better place.

      If you think that way, sure. That’s your opinion. But have the statistical methodology to back up your assertions, and don’t shy away from answering serious questions about your assertions, instead of portraying them as fact, and anything else is liberal media bias.

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      • Lawrence says:

        I actually think Mr. Groseclose is making an even less defensible assertion than that Fox News is okay. I think he’s suggesting that Fox News and MSNBC cancel each other out, but that the remaining “centrist” news organizations like the broadcast networks and CNN, which attract self-identifying independents, still lean a little to the left. I strongly disagree with this assertion. There’s no way that Air America or even NPR can cancel out the entire industry of right-wing talk radio. There’s no way that Morning Joe leans as far to the left as Fox & Friends does to the right.

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      • Winghunter says:

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

        Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5
    • Winghunter says:

      Exactly right and clearly true.

      Forensic Psychiatrist Explains the Madness of (Modern) Liberalism ~ Political Madness http://t.co/zoDKXZt

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  19. Dustin H says:

    Most of what you wrote in this book seems to me to be more like pure speculation surrounding a bias thesis of your own creation rather than rational analysis of the US media environment. The PQ system you have created is highly suspect at best and demonstrates how numbers and logic can be tortured into saying whatever the author likes rather than a strong framework of logical analysis. I feel the same way about your SQ system. I fear you book will be used to encourage the continuation of the conservative bias on Fox News and other far right media sources (Limbaugh) and after watching a few episodes of O’Reilly, or reading an Ann Coulter book don’t understand how you can say that these media sources are not as conservatively biased as CNN or NPR are left leaning.

    In my opinion the majority of media sources are getting worse and failing to report important news stories and political trends. Both the right and the left continue to demonize the other side rather than unbiasedly report the news while droves of American voters are sickened by the state of our political system. We don’t need more conservative journalists or less liberal news outlets, we need trust worthy news sources that will report the facts, dig deeper into stories, and more investigative journalism pieces that will bring to light new information. what we especially don’t need are people who label news pieces and individuals as “liberal” or “conservative” create an analytical framework for organizing these “liberal” and “conservative” pieces than write a book from these flawed premises and call it all good science.

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  20. James Hanley says:

    Looking at the book on Amazon, I am appalled by his method for determining PQ. One of the roll-call votes he uses is the vote on Sonia Sotomayor. But that treats votes on judicial nominees as purely ideological votes, whereas many Senators hold their noses on a person’s ideology and vote in favor of the president’s nominee as long as the person is appropriately qualified. A conservative could vote for Sotomayor without it reflecting any liberal leanings. Conversely, a conservative who voted against Sotomayor probably deserved negative PQ points, rather than zero, because they’re putting their conservative ideology above considerations of judicial qualifications. (Of course the same would be true of liberals if the roll call vote concerned a conservative judicial nominee.)

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  21. Mike says:

    two points: the first is that being in the media generally requires religious ambiguity, the second you identify yourself as jewish it would be hard to believe you are being entirely neutral when reporting on muslim issues. reporters would be dissuaded from having strong religious preferences, a traight more often found in conservatives. The second point is that this guy may be missing the chicken or the egg argument – maybe liberals consume more media and thus there is a liberal bias, and large media outlets cater to their best customers just like grocery stores trying to be family friendly

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  22. John Markarian says:

    At this late stage in life, I consider myself pretty close to the center…

    I find however that I prefer reading the New York Times to the Washington Star. I seem to be more fully enlightened by reason than adrenaline, thus I simply can’t stand anyone on Fox TV, although I try over and over to get the groove. It is such a blatant adrenaline dealer, I can only assume that people get hooked on the “surge-high” of anger and fear-mongering of Fox and Rush. I try to follow the links from NewsMax, but the headlines are so often distortions of the facts of the underlying stories, which themselves are so false…

    I like David Brooks, George Will conservatives, because they present a reasoned point of view. I think Rachel Maddow does a really intelligent job from the left on CNBC.

    I just feel more informed by good arguments from the more (perceived to be) liberal writers and more snake oiled emotional manipulation by the conservative media. I really regret that there are not more responsible speakers on the right. Too much “God told me this or that” or “Everybody knows ..” and mis-statement of facts or, like Mr. Groseclose… lots of assumptions and “maybes” and “seems like”… with inadequate substantiation.

    The arrogance of the debt ceiling extortion, the embrace of denial of climate change, the utter lack of integrity of the conservative press regarding President Obama’s birth… These indicate an alarming disregard for fact based journalism, which may be the actual reason there are not enough conservative reporters hired by the broad media: the journalistic tradition on the right is to manipulate rather than inform.

    A leftist version of Fox News might have hourly discussions on the air as follows:

    ” For instanceIf you can’t disprove my assertion that Rush Limbaugh is a Martian plotting to mind control all of humanity, then it must be true…. and documents don’t count because they can be forged.”

    I am sure you read the NY Times because of the quality of the writing, and the ability to publish apologies when they get it wrong. I hope you will do the same if you change your mind.

    I join others in being disappointed in your responses because I agree that the topic needs to be explored because these differences might shed light on bigger issues of division and conflict and the very definition of journalism vs free speech vs free press 4th estate responsibilities and ethics.

    Just a thought..

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  23. David Clayton says:

    Just curious, Tim – would you describe The New York Times as “fairly liberal”? Because you set up an equivalence near the end of the Q&A between the NYT and the Washington Times, and refer to the Washington Times as “fairly conservative.”

    By my reading, the only nationally prominent dailies that are as far right as the Washington Times are the Wall Street Journal (about the same) and Investors’ Business Daily (reflexively conservative).

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  24. Lawrence says:

    I’d like to thank Mr. Groseclose for taking my question regarding the role of religion, but his response belies the facts in religiously-charged topics. Evolution, for example, is still fighting a rear-guard action against ignorant opposition led by religious conservatives, and even though there are, famously, more scientists named “Steve” who endorse evolution than their are scientists of any stripe who doubt it (google “project Steve”), plenty of media attention is given to “the controversy” where none actually exists. How many people would actually doubt evolution if the media described it, truthfully, as a question of evidence and fact, not of faith and controversy?

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  25. Rachel says:

    Is there going to be any follow-up to the multiple issues this Q&A has raised? The questioning on the statistical methodology used? The obvious conservative tone taken by Groseclose in answering this question, which confounds any claims of liberal media bias (especially because he keeps being cited by conservative media and Fox News)? The selected softball questions?

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  26. Matthew Melange says:

    he states that people with intermediate education tend to be more conservative while people with less education tend to be liberal, so then shouldn’t journalism professors tend to be more conservative creating more conservative journalists?

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  27. Winghunter says:

    * We don’t have to enforce a mindless law (nor would it be right) for equal hiring of Republican reporters/journalists. We merely demand all of them actually adhere to the six Canons of Journalism (1922) or they can find other employment. Holding them accountable is treating the cause of this giant problem and we must begin today.

    * Elected officials wouldn’t be stupid enough to be openly anti-religion (yet). It is their agenda which they manipulate encroaching regulations and laws which gradually decay our morality. The mountain of history and direct evidence is undeniable.

    * “Global Warming” is the biggest confidence scam ever perpetrated. Time and effort spent looking for the truth is the only diference between the gullible and the sane but, don’t take my word for it;

    NASA Data Blows Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism http://t.co/7UuUC5k

    Breaking News: Global Warming Consensus was only 75 worldwide http://bit.ly/eq5GBK

    Princeton Physics Professor: Global warming really population-control movement http://bit.ly/4wx7fR

    Top Science Panel Caught in Another Global Warming Data Fraud http://bit.ly/fQJQKC

    Climate Crisis Yet Another Flagrant Con By Paul Driessen http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=331253421781662

    The Amazing Story Behind the Global Warming Scam
    http://www.kusi.com/weather/colemanscorner/38574742.html

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  28. dave gershner says:

    There is a much simpler answer to the question why is the media liberal. Please look at who represents college towns such as Princeton, Duke, Ann Arbor and Evanston.
    All Democrats.
    Better educated people, especially those who follow politics, tend to vote Democrat. Also, the media is largely better educated, better informed, so naturally they would be more liberal.
    Also, look at the poorest, least educated states in the US, all of which are solid GOP: Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Tennesse, South Carolina.
    With poor education you would expect them to be republican, and they are.
    That’s why the media is liberal. More information/smarts tend to make people vote Democratic.
    That wasn’t so complicated, now was it?

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  29. barney says:

    Here’s the biggest problems.

    1 – Groseclose’s own bias.

    2. – He’s calling Barney frank a “liberal”. I’d look into what Barney Frank & Nancy Pelosi think of real progressive thinkers like Krugman & Chomsky.

    3. – All he’s really pointing out is a bias towards the “Democratic party”. The same party that caves to every right wing threat, the does not support gay weddings and that drops more unmanned drones than the Bush Administration. The current Democratic party is way to the right of real liberals and progressives. It’s been leaning right since the Clinton administration.

    4. Why doesn’t ANYONE talk about the fact that the media SHOULD have a liberal bias since the truth has a liberal bias.

    I’m just sayin.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2
    • James Briggs says:

      You are right that in many ways the Democrats are to the right of the Republicans. You asked why don’t any one tell the truth and the answer if if you tell the truth you lose your job.

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  30. Bill Sheridan says:

    I think both MSNBC and FOX News are very biased. But all the people at Fox consistently deny that they are. My litmus test for you is: Do you think Fox is biased?

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  31. James Briggs says:

    Groseclose’s methodology is deeply flawed because it ignores was bias is. Bias is the human tendency to make systematic decisions in certain circumstances based on cognitive factors rather than evidence. Groseclose ignores decision making and assumes bias is based on the words people use or who they quote rather than their conclusions. For example he claims that certain words are rightwing words and others are leftwing words and he assigns points based on word count. Therefore if a person repeats the word stem cell 20 times they would be considered biased in a certain direction regardless of their conclusion. In the same way if they quote a left wing think tank 10 times they will be considered to be having a left wing bias even if they claim that George Bush had a balanced budget every one of the years he was in office. Also he uses members of Congress as his control group. If members of Congress aren’t a special population no group is.

    Daniel B. Klein a libertarian economist has developed a useful test of bias. The test is based on a set of survey questions that tested people’s real-world understanding of basic economic principles. A good test of political bias could be developed based on how an individual answers questions based on objectively known facts that involve making the right or left look bad. A person who agrees a statement like, “Obama used liberal principles to return the economy to prosperity,” has a leftwing bias. A person who agrees with a statement like, “Newt Gingrich voted for Clinton’s balanced budgets.” has a rightwing bias.

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  32. James Briggs says:

    These are common beliefs of people who listen to Fox.
    1. Decreasing the tax rates always increases revenues.
    2. The Democrats held and absolute majority in the Senate the whole time Bush was in office.
    3. Barney Frank prevented any reform in the mortgages.
    4. Iraq attacked the US in 9/11.
    5. Deregulation had no negative effect economy while Bush was in office.
    6. The Alan Greenspan did not say he was too trusting.
    7. Cutting taxes and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan had no effect on the debt.
    8. Members of the Bush administration said they knew about the problems with mortgages but there was nothing they could do.
    9. Bush was prevented from stopping 9/11 by Clinton.
    10. The Bush administration did a good job handling Katrina.
    11. The years 2000 through 2008 were good years for the stock market.
    12. Obama got rid of Bush’s tax cuts.
    13. Obama radically changed all of Bush’s policies.
    14. Obama said he wanted to socialize the economy and eliminate private enterprise.

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  33. Craig says:

    I find it hard to believe that Fox News is as conservative as Steven Levitt, the man who once theorized that higher rates of abortions correlate to lower crime rates.

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  34. Dan Downey says:

    As a reader of both books, Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, I am fascinated by your analysis and research.

    Given the growth of alternative media, e.g. Fox News, talk radio, right leaning blogs such as National Review, Weekly Standard, Townhall, etc., do you see the PQ scores shifting downward in the future?

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  35. James Briggs says:

    Tim Groseclose is like the Freudians or the Communists. PO is a classically unscientific meaningless term. He would have to do years are research before PO is thought of as something he just pulled out of his butt. The fact that he had to have thought of Bush as a successful President shows that he deserves no respect. I am convinced that he is getting a lot of money from some rich Republican to make up evidence of liberal bias. He’s on a par with the people who argued that legalizing abortion led to a drop in the crime rate.

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  36. James Briggs says:

    Tim Groseclose basic assumption that liberals are biased and therefore wrong. There are people who deny that the Nazis during World War Two killed Jews. According to Tim if a person which a certain bias score disagrees he does so because he is biased and therefore the Nazis didn’t kill any Jews. In the same way he assumes that because people with liberal bias think that the events under Bush were bad for the country such as 1. Tax cuts that led to a 33 % increase in the debt in his first term and a 40% increase in the second. 2. In 9/11 we had the greatest terrorists attack on US soil. 3. We invaded Afghanistan and didn’t win. 4. We invaded Iraq and didn’t win. 5. We had the dot com bubble that burst. 6. Financial regulations were removed and Ponzi gamers stole billions. 7. Regulators of mortgages stopped regulating and we had a mortgage crisis. 8. Lack of regulations led to giant bonuses allowing executives to loot companies making them worthless. 9. The stock market crashed because companies were worthless. According to Tim because people will a liberal bias thought those events were bad for the country they must have been good. As those events were Republican victories that meant that people should have voted Republican but didn’t because of liberal bias.

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  37. James Briggs says:

    I objected to this test along. Now I have the answer. There was an obvious confounding variable as to why liberals speak like those in the News Media. One thing we know that is a job requirement for working in the News Media is you have to be well spoken and sound intelligent and Liberals are more intelligent then Conservatives.

    The Sunlight Foundation, a 6-year-old educational concern that attempts to make government more transparent. Sunlight’s report—which assigned grade levels to how members of Congress talk—revealed that the most right-wing of our representatives express themselves, on average, at the lowest grade level in Congress. According to the report,

    Democrats have a more sophisticated way of expressing themselves. Democrats evidently use multi-syllabic words—like “moreover”—and more complex sentence structure than their colleagues on the right. Replete with internal clauses—the ones that can throw off listeners and muddy a point—the rococo stylings of Democrats evidently go hand-in-hand with the promotion of their pet causes, like universal health care and of course their longstanding war on antidisestablishmentarianism.

    I can’t resist. Republicans speak they way they do because they are stupid.

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  38. Tom says:

    As to why reporters are liberal and biased, I would suggest it is because they come out of the great bastion of higher education — an oasis for liberals. The reason they are far more liberal than society in general, I would think, is that there is no performance measure. University staffers get higher salaries and greater benefits each and every year regardless of what they do. They can sit around the faculty lounge, be 100% wrong about an issue, and await their next raise.

    Try starting a business and being wrong. You either correct your assumptions and behavior or you fail. No so with academia. We all know the qualify of education has been on a steady decline, yet the pay and stature (especially relative to a declining middle class) continues to rise. Why would they self-correct their outlook on the world and their own capabilities when they continue to be economically and socially reinforced.

    And that’s they way I see it, from outside the nest of academia.

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    • James Briggs says:

      Tom it seems that you have never been a student. If tenured professors have it so easy why doesn’t everyone do it? Apparently you don’t know that students are measured by grades? To get into a graduate program you have to have excellent grades. Then a thesis has to be written that is evaluated by your competitors. I guess you never heard of the term publish or perish. But you have to publish a book and numerous papers before one is even considered for tenure. Moreover every paper and every book has to be something new.

      Top executives are chosen out of a pool of people with money and connections. All the work is done by middle management and the clerical staff. We can see how productive American executives are by the drops in the stock market and bankruptcies. As for being isolated from the market billions of dollars are paid to executives who drove their company out of business.

      Lets look at the work of a typical new millionaire. H e finds out that bad mortgages can be mixed with good mortgages and they can be sold them at a profit. He makes no decisions he does nothing new. He has the same thing done again and again and because he has inherited wealth he hires people to do all the work for him and he makes millions.

      Let’s get to Congress. Let do nothing but take bribes and go on trips and they keep their jobs as long as they want. Congressmen are paid to take money for the middle class and give it to the rich. They also make money changing the law so certain people have a license to steal. They stay in office by claiming that the world is coming because the evil liberals are turning American into a Communist dictatorship.

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  39. tom says:

    By the way, on the study of bias, I would suggest a more comprehensive study would be helpful. Of course it is obvious that what they choose to cover is probably just as important as how they cover it.

    Example: Romney put a dog on top of the car for a ride. No word that it was harmful or dangerous. THey simply hoped to hurt his reputation with animal lovers.

    Yet somehow it escaped their attention that Obama had eaten dog.

    I dare say animal lovers would probably prefer to know that Romney crated his dog on top of the station wagon than to hear the president takes his dog thru the window — at the drive thru!

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    • James Briggs says:

      Oh poor Romney. No one ever said a bad thing about Obama in the history of the world. How did you find out that he had eaten dog meat. According to you it was top secret. Then how did you know about it if no one ever said it. People called him a liar. People said things about his race. People said ever said he refused to salute the flag. People doubted that he was born in the US. He was accused of being a Muslim. People said he was on the side of the terrorists.

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  40. James Briggs says:

    Another media lie is about government waste. No one knows how much it is. There is a budget of 2.5 trillion and the US is the richest country in the world and the most powerful . We had plenty of money under Clinton. The idea here no one in the history of the world wasted anything. Do you ever lose a paper clip? Buy food and didn’t eat it.? Out of 2.5 trillion if the US wasted a billion in a year it would be the same as if a person who make 50 k a year wasted 20 dollars in a year. I bet everyone wastes far more then $20.

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  41. Clifford Spencer says:

    Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdoch, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and their olk claim to represent the largest share of the media.
    Are they liberal or not?

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  42. eadler2 says:

    It is easy to understand why journalists are predominantly liberal, and few conservatives choose journalism as a career. Psychological surveys show that liberals have more compassion, are interested in their own community, and the world outside of their community. That is what a lot of news is about, In addition, liberals are more open to changing their minds based on facts and data.

    Conservatives are interested in restoring the past, rather than learning about the present, and influencing the future based on facts. The reaction of conservatives to the novel, is fear. Given that psychological mind set, it is easy to see why few conservatives would choose journalism.

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  43. eadler2 says:

    Perhaps Groseclose would try to answer the question, why are so many scientists liberals(52%), and so few conservative (9%). Is this a problem? Why?

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  44. Gene Culver says:

    Prof

    Little question that your scientific analysis of how Americans may be influenced by the ‘media’, and it’s great to see such a documented account of the methods to quantify the amount. I am troubled by a couple of issues that were not discussed, however, but may have relevance to the discussion First, I question the recognition in your book of talk show ‘celebs’; I. e. Limbaugh, Matthews, Hannity and Madow. Seems that a caveat should be included to recognize their first goal is NOT to give accurate testimony about our political culture, but RATINGS. Without the ‘receivers’ as you call them whether casual or addicted the hosts would lose their podia. Second, you note the American voters rate a PQ of 51 or so, yet we can only verify approximately 60% who are admitted partisan; the rest are independent, apolitical or refuse to be classified This would appear to validate the assertion that nearly half of us are Liberal and the other half Conservative, Thanks for listening. Gene Culver

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