Third time's not the charm: Sunday-morning talk shows still imbalanced

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In Media Matters' third examination of guest appearances on ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, and NBC's Meet the Press, research demonstrated that Republicans and conservatives outnumbered Democrats and progressives from April to June of 2006.

On February 14, Media Matters for America released a comprehensive study analyzing the guest appearances on ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, and NBC's Meet the Press from 1997 through 2005. In April, Media Matters released an update to that study, analyzing the shows for the first quarter of 2006. In both reports, the results demonstrated that Republicans and conservatives dominated on all three Sunday shows. Media Matters has now completed an analysis of the second quarter of 2006, April through June, and the key conclusions reached in the first two studies remain unchanged.

Republicans and conservatives outnumber Democrats and progressives. More conservative journalists appear than progressive journalists. Panels are more likely to be imbalanced toward the right than toward the left. Republicans and conservatives are given more solo interviews. In short, the title we gave to our original study -- "If It's Sunday, It's Conservative" -- remains true.

In the second quarter, the Sunday-morning programs continued to host more Republicans and conservatives than Democrats and progressives. Across all three shows, Republicans and conservatives made 66 appearances, compared with 48 appearances by Democrats and progressives.

First-quarter results:

chart1

Second-quarter results:

chart2

On each show, Republicans and conservatives outnumbered Democrats and progressives in total guest appearances. Face the Nation featured nearly twice as many Republicans and conservatives as Democrats and progressives during the second quarter. That disparity was in line with the findings from the first quarter, which showed that 47 percent of the show's guests were Republicans and conservatives, while only 32 percent were Democrats and progressives. Compared with the first quarter, Meet the Press showed improvement in the second quarter; however, the program still hosted more Republicans and conservatives than Democrats and progressives.

Elected officials and members of the Bush administration

The discrepancy between the number of appearances by elected Democrats and the number of appearances by elected Republicans or members of the Bush administration has stayed roughly the same since the release of Media Matters' initial study, although there was variation between the shows. While former administration officials of either party are not included in the charts below, an imbalance would exist even if we included only the three former Clinton administration officials who each made one appearance during this period (John Podesta on Face the Nation, Dee Dee Myers on Meet the Press, and Al Gore on This Week). Overall, elected and administration Republicans outnumbered elected Democrats by a considerable margin in the second quarter. Again, Face the Nation displayed an increase from the first-quarter findings. Meanwhile, This Week's results stayed roughly the same from the previous quarter. Meet the Press made strides toward greater balance in this category, closing the gap somewhat compared with its poor first-quarter performance.

First-quarter results:

chart3

Second-quarter results:

chart4

Journalists

For guest appearances by journalists, the split between neutrals, progressives, and conservatives was roughly the same as in the previous quarter.

First-quarter results:

chart5

Second-quarter results:

chart6

This Week had the same proportion of conservative to progressive journalists as in the first quarter of 2006 -- a ratio of 2-to-1. Meet the Press hosted more neutral journalists during the second quarter, while hosting three conservatives and two progressives (compared with four conservatives and two progressives in the first quarter). As in the first quarter, Face the Nation hosted one more conservative than progressive (one to zero in the first quarter, and two to one in the second). As was the case in our previous studies, This Week showed some of the greatest disparities, in large part because conservative columnist George F. Will participates in every panel discussion and is often joined by another conservative. But in every case -- as in the first quarter of 2006 and our original study covering 1997-2005 -- progressive journalists lose out.

Panel composition

During the second quarter of 2006, more panels skewed to the right than to the left overall than in the previous quarter.

First-quarter results:

chart7

Second-quarter results:

chart8

Meet the Press, in particular, took a step backward; the disparity between right-leaning panels and left-leaning panels nearly doubled from the first quarter, from 21 percent to 14 percent in favor of Republicans/conservatives, to 38 percent to 8 percent. This Week had roughly the same proportion of right-leaning panels to left-leaning panels as during the first quarter. Face the Nation improved from its first-quarter showing, this time having all panels balanced.

Solo interviews

During the first quarter of 2006, Meet the Press showed a large disparity between Republicans/conservatives and Democrats/progressives in solo interviews -- 75 percent to 17 percent. During the second quarter of 2006, Meet the Press reversed that showing, interviewing twice as many Democrats/progressives (six) as Republicans/conservatives (three). While the Meet the Press' first- and second-quarter results taken together still favor Republicans/conservatives (52 percent Republican/conservative, 35 percent Democratic/progressive, and 13 percent neutral), the second-quarter results appear to be a step in the direction of balanced guest appearances over longer periods of time. Once again, This Week's results were similar to the previous quarter's. Face the Nation, on the other hand, showed a large increase in disparity, again favoring Republicans and conservatives. In the previous quarter, Republicans/conservatives were given 50 percent of solo interviews, while Democrats/progressives were given 32 percent. During the second quarter, the disparity increased -- 60 percent of solo interviews went to Republicans/conservatives, while only 7 percent went to Democrats/progressives.

First-quarter results:

chart9

Second-quarter results:

chart10

Conclusion

The results we have presented here demonstrate that the three major networks' Sunday-morning talk shows continue to favor Republican and conservative voices over Democratic and progressive ones. They also suggest that the three programs in question have done little to address the overt imbalance in guest appearances.

While Meet the Press had better results during the second quarter, Face the Nation showed increases in pro-Republican disparities in a number of categories, including overall guests, elected and administration officials, and solo interviews. This Week displayed little improvement, showing roughly the same results from the first quarter of 2006.

The question still stands, and the networks have yet to answer it: Media Matters asks these networks whether a significant Republican/conservative tilt in the guest lists of Meet the Press, This Week, and Face the Nation serves the public interest of balanced political discourse.

Network/Outlet
CBS, NBC, ABC
Show/Publication
Meet the Press, This Week, Face the Nation
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.