[lit-ideas] Re: The nature of Media Bias

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 20:11:42 -0800

Judy: =20

The Pew Research Center Poll is corroborating evidence in the sense (if =
memory hasn't failed me) that Pew has polled journalists who more and =
identify themselves as "Liberal." [I swear I read that, but now can't =
the reference].  If what I think I remember is actually a Pew Polling, =
would correspond to the G&M results which show that the News Reporting,
presumably by some of these same Journalists, reflects a Liberal bias. =20

The Pew Poll I could find (comprising "inductive evidence")is
(http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=3D215) referred =
to by
Bruce Bartlett of NCPA at http://www.ncpa.org/edo/bb/2004/20040623bb.htm
comments on it: "A new poll from the Pew Research Center has raised =
the issue of liberal bias in the media. . . a high percentage of =
perceive a liberal bias. . . This has affected viewing habits.
Conservatives have drifted away from those outlets they perceive as most
biased, which has contributed heavily to an overall decline in =
Among all Americans, those who watch the evening network news regularly =
fallen from 60 percent in 1993 to just 34 percent today.  Among =
15 percent or less report watching the evening news on ABC, CBS or NBD." =
read the poll to say 17 percent or less.]  =20

This may turn out to be G&M's Magnum Opus.  I don't know of anything =
they've written.  Their initial analysis wasn't crystal clear to me.  I
misunderstood them at several points, but their response to Numberg =
up all my misunderstandings. =20

I misunderstood the meaning of "back of the envelope."  Their primary
procedure depends upon their formulae; however the "back of the =
approach gives results that approximate the results when one uses their
primary formula.  Their very damning response of Numberg was that he =
commented upon their primary formula (contained in the section entitled =
Estimation Method" but only upon their "back of the envelope" short cut
method.  G&M suggest that Numberg doesn't have the mathematical training
necessary to understand their Estimation Method -- training one receives
when specializing in Economics.  Barro from Harvard, on the other hand, =
specialized in Economics and, presumably does have the training.  He is
impressed with the G&M procedure.

Another damning criticism of Numberg is that he made a big thing over =
200 Think Tanks because the person who selected this List, Saraf, was =
to be associated with a Republican group.  G&M point out that since the
application of the formula involves counting the citings of the 200 =
Tanks in articles, speeches, etc., if there were more Republican Think =
(as a result of Saraf selecting more of them for his list) then the =
might be tilted (by the degree that number of Republican Think Tanks =
the number of Democratic Think Tanks) toward a Republican bias.  If G&M =
a Republican agenda, they should have selected a List that had more =
Think Tanks on it.  G&M said that they used someone else's list =
(Saraf's) in
order to avoid the accusation of cherry-picking.  Nunberg did accuse =
them of
Cherry picking, but his argument would, if anything, suggest a =
rather than a bias.

Lawrence Helm
San Jacinto

-----Original Message-----
From: Judith Evans

First my apologies to anyone who doesn't like .html mail.  My usual =
has more or or less collapsed and I haven't yet set this one up fully, =
I'm relying on web mail I can't control Next, it's late here now, I'll =
The analysis has been out there (somewhere) since
September 2003. Barro reviewed it in June of 2004 for Business Week and
then in December 2004 for The Weekly Standard. From June to December his
confidence in the G&M methodology seems to have increased
But I see no evidence that people in political science and media studies
have any confidence in it at all -- I haven't checked the account of the
criticism it met at UCLA (from, I read, everyone from senior faculty to
graduate students), I'll try.=20
>My impression of the G&M approach is that they start with the ADA data =
>house members=20
They take the ADA ranking but are unhappy with it so use the median =
instead of the mean.  I've just read something that purports to be their
paper -- the .pdf is on my other computer -- it doesn't reference the =
source.  (The references are few, they suggest G/M are as ill-informed =
media analysis as I assumed from their cv's.)
Conservative house members would be assumed to cite Conservative think
tanks. Liberal house members would be assumed to cite Liberal think =
And so think tanks can be classified that way and then the media can be
classified by the think tanks they cite (except that Rand is a problem =
see G/M -- so part of Rand is omitted -- yes). To be fair, they aren't =
as crass as this suggests: they omit citations that carry an obvious =
labelling.  (Actually "they" is 20 research assistants, unless the  RAs
simply gathered the data.) And they do find an explanation for the =
of The Drudge Report. But still, this is rather like someone assessing =
members of an e-mail list by counting the number of times they mention =
This implies that someone will have to be
subjectively modifying the raw data to throw out elements considered to =
Yes. This is not an objective piece of work, and it would be better if =
didn't suggest it was. These men aren't I'd say right-wing ideologues, =
they do seem to believe rather blindly in the power and integrity of
econometric techniques.
This data period at first seemed
too short to me, but after thinking about it, the Q&M procedure isn=92t
intended to determine bias once and for all but only bias during a =
But that isn't how it's been reported in the media that have taken the =
What precisely do G&M do with these Think Tanks? Do
they all fit nicely on the Left and the Right? Or does it matter?
That's interesting too - yes it is a problem -- they seem to say it =
matter yet as the Rand is a problem (its reports, apparently, vary
ideologically by topic) they omitted some  of Rand. =20
 [By the way, in
TWS article he credits the Pew Research Center for providing =
evidence, i.e., =93the strong tendency of journalists to describe =
as liberal.=94]=20
that isn't really evidence, Lawrence.
If this paper -- OK, it does seem to be just a working paper, so it
shouldn't really be greeted too harshly but otoh, nor should it be =
as though it were a magnum opus!
But really the main reason for scepticism is the result.  If they really
believe the media are as "liberal" as they say, well, there's something
wrong with them. =20




Judy Evans, Cardiff, UK=20



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