Jonathan Haidt Answers Your Questions About Morality, Politics, and Religion

We recently solicited your questions for social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Below are his responses about confirmation bias in religion, the "score" of our morals, the power of branding, how his research has made him a centrist, and how the search for truth is hampered by our own biases. Big thanks to him and all our readers for another great Q&A.  

How do the Times and the Journal Report a Drop in Wall Street Bonuses?

As a writer, I tend to think about media bias from a different perspective than the average media consumer, and also different from academic researchers who try to identify media bias via data analysis, as described in our recent podcast "How Biased Is Your Media?"

I tend to think about subtle but telling things like word choice and sentence structure -- what is the journalist emphasizing, or downplaying, and why? -- but also an article's placement, inclusion or exclusion of outside quotes, and choice of headline (which, for the record, is usually written by an editor and not the reporter him/herself).

Above all, I tend to compare articles from different newspapers that are based on the same event. This is to me one of the simplest but most powerful ways to take the pulse of a newspaper's culture. If, for instance, two newspapers publish articles based on a simple event -- a state comptroller's report about Wall Street bonuses, for instance -- one can read a little bit of institutional attitude into the two papers' resultant articles.

Movie Review Bias: Time Warner vs. News Corp.

Does media concentration lead to biased coverage? A new paper from two Berkeley economists, Stefano Delavigna and Alec Kennedy, studies News Corp. and Time Warner, and approaches the big question through a small window: movie reviews. Here's the abstract:

Reason No. 1,382,992 to Hate Politics

Is there any question that if Governor Rick Perry of Texas were a Democrat that all the left-leaning editorialists, economists, bloggers, etc., would be bending over backward to praise the Texas employment picture rather than bending over backward to belittle it?

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) were posed 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

How Biased Is the Media? Bring Your Questions for the Author of Left Turn

Tim Groseclose is a political-science professor at UCLA (and an occasional co-author with Steve Levitt) who has spent years trying to systematically and empirically study media bias. He has a new book out called Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. Here's what Levitt had to say about it recently:

As the title suggests, it has a definite conservative slant. It is not, however, a right-wing rant by any means. Rather, it is a carefully researched and amusingly written book by a highly regarded academic.

Groseclose's core argument is that the U.S. media overall has a strong liberal bias, and that this bias strongly influences how Americans vote and how they think about the issues of the day. He reached this conclusion by constructing a "political quotient" (PQ), which is meant to measure political views in a "precise, objective, and quantitative way." 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.

Tim Groseclose's New Book on Liberal Media Bias

My good friend and co-author Tim Groseclose has a new book out entitled Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. As the title suggests, it has a definite conservative slant. It is not, however, a right-wing rant by any means. Rather, it is a carefully researched and amusingly written book by a highly regarded academic.

I’m bored to death by politics. So I didn’t expect to enjoy Groseclose’s book, but I really did. I’m always surprised when an academic can write for a general audience, but Groseclose definitely has that gift.

As I said in my blurb for his book, liberals will not like what Groseclose has to say, but that is all the more reason why liberals should read his book.

Old-Style Russian Propaganda

This is like something from the cold war. First, take a look at this clip from Fox News: You only need to watch 30 seconds of it, but you can watch more if you want. It is an interview with a 12-year-old American who, along with her aunt, was in South Ossetia when the fighting […]

Media Bias: Olympic Edition

If you go to to study the Olympic medal counts, you will find the United States sitting proudly at the top of the list. When I last checked, the U.S. had about 13 more medals than China. Russia, in third place, has barely more than half the medals we have. Great Britain is in […]

How Healthy Is the Economy? It Depends Where You Get Your News

There have been a flurry of economic papers addressing the issue of media bias or media “slant” in recent years. Leading examples of these include research by Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo, Matt Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro, and Andrei Shleifer and Sendhil Mullainathan. In the introduction to their paper published in the American Economic Review, […]