Monday, July 16, 2007

In other news, 15% of Americans think the voices in their heads have a liberal bias.

So this morning I had a look at Instapundit (don't ask me why I keep doing it) and noted that Mr. Reynolds was shocked (shocked!) to see the findings of a recent Rasmussen poll:

By a 39% to 20% margin, American adults believe that the three major broadcast networks deliver news with a bias in favor of liberals. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 25% believe that ABC, CBS, and NBC deliver the news without any bias.

That proves it, right? There really is widespread liberal bias in the media!

But wait a minute. How good are people at evaluating bias in news reports? Do these numbers really tell us anything meaningful about actual bias in the news media, or does this tell us more about the ideological lenses through which people view the media? Here is what Rasmussen Reports has to say about that:

Not surprisingly, there are huge partisan and ideological differences in the data. For example, among self-identified liberals, all of the media outlets are believed to have some net bias in favor of conservatives. . . .

Conservatives throughout the nation see things entirely differently. Sixty-two percent (62%) see a liberal bias at the major broadcast networks and 55% say the same about CNN.

So, believe it or not, biased people tend to see evidence of bias in the media! Conservatives and liberals can look at the very same news networks, and liberals will see conservative bias, and conservatives will see liberal bias! Astounding!

Is there bias in the media? Of course there is. Anyone who looks hard enough can find evidence of both liberal bias and conservative bias. But the really sad thing is not that there is bias in the news media, but that we are slowly but surely losing our sense of what unbiased journalism is even supposed to look like. We have been led to believe that balanced journalism means giving liberals and conservatives equal time to try to spin the facts their way. If we add the 39% who see liberal bias to the 20% who see conservative bias, we learn that 59% of Americans see pervasive bias of some sort the news media. And once we see begin to distrust the media, we are less likely to believe actual facts that might contradict our political beliefs; we can just dismiss anything that makes us uncomfortable as yet more evidence of bias. We will have forgotten that somewhere out there there are actual facts, facts that are not biased one way or the other, just plain old facts.

There is one more thing worth noting in the Rasmussen poll results, something truly astounding.

There is one major exception to the belief that media outlets have a liberal bias—Fox News. Thirty-one percent (31%) of Americans say it has a bias that favors conservatives while 15% say it has a liberal bias.

Yes, you read that right. Fifteen percent of Americans believe Fox News is biased in favor of liberals.

Objectivity is dead.

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