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A Measure of Media Bias

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Abstract

In this paper we estimate ADA (Americans for Democratic Action) scores for major media outlets such as the New York Times, USA Today, Fox News Special Report, and all three network television news shows. Our estimates allow us to answer such questions as Is the average article in the New York Times more liberal than the average speech by Tom Daschle? or Is the average story on Fox News more conservative than the average speech by Bill Frist? To compute our measure, we count the times that a media outlet cites various think tanks and other policy groups. We compare this with the times that members of Congress cite the same groups in their speeches on the floor of the House and Senate. By comparing the citation patterns we construct an ADA score. As a simplified example, imagine that there were only two think tanks, and suppose that the New York Times cited the first think tank twice as often as the second. Our method asks: What is the typical ADA score of members of Congress who exhibit the same frequency (2:1) in their speeches? This is the score that we would assign to the New York Times. Our results show a strong liberal bias. All of the news outlets except Fox News Special Report and the Washington Times received a score to the left of the average member of Congress. Consistent with many conservative critics, CBS Evening News and the New York Times received a score far left of center. Outlets such as USA Today, NPRs Morning Edition, NBCs Nightly News and ABCs World News Tonight were moderately left. The most centrist outlets (but still left-leaning) by our measure were the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, CNNs NewsNight with Aaron Brown, and ABCs Good Morning America. Fox News Special Report, while right of center, was closer to the center than any of the three major networks evening news broadcasts. All of our findings refer strictly to the news stories of the outlets. That is, we omitted editorials, book reviews, and letters to the editor from our sample.

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File URL: http://economics.missouri.edu/working-papers/2005/wp0501_milyo.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Missouri in its series Working Papers with number 0501.

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Length: 62 pgs.
Date of creation: 03 Jan 2005
Date of revision: 25 Aug 2005
Publication status: forthcoming in Quarterly Journal of Economics
Handle: RePEc:umc:wpaper:0501

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Keywords: Media Bias;

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References

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  1. Simeon Djankov & Caralee McLiesh & Tatiana Nenova & Andrei Shleifer, . "Who Owns the Media?," Working Paper 19470, Harvard University OpenScholar.
  2. Daniel Sutter, 2002. "Advertising and Political Bias in the Media: The Market for Criticism of the Market Economy," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 725-745, 07.
  3. Sendhil Mullainathan & Andrei Shleifer, 2005. "The Market for News," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1031-1053, September.
  4. Sendhil Mullainathan & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "Media Bias," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1981, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  5. repec:cto:journl:v:20:y:2001:i:3:p:431-451 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. John R. Lott, Jr., 1999. "Public Schooling, Indoctrination, and Totalitarianism," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages S127-S157, December.
  7. Dwight R. Lee, 2001. "The Internet, the Market, and Communication: Don't Ignore the Shoe While Admiring the Shine," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 20(3), Fall.
  8. Baron, David P., 2004. "Persistent Media Bias," Research Papers 1845r, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
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